Florida's minimum wage is increasing to $10 an hour starting Thursday, Sept. 30.
This comes as the state gradually works toward a $15 minimum wage over the course of six years.
A supermajority of Florida voters approved the amendment to the Florida Constitution last November that will raise Florida’s minimum wage from $8.56 an hour to $15 an hour by 2026. After the initial increase Thursday, the minimum wage will increase by a dollar each Sept. 30 until it reaches the $15 mark on Sept. 30, 2026.
Workers like Alex Harris, a server at IHOP in Ybor City who organized with the group Fight for $15, are grateful for the pay raise.
“It’s a major, major deal," he said. "It’s life-changing.”
Right now, Harris says he can't afford dental treatment for constant tooth problems, generally must eat meals provided by his employer, and has to wear some clothing items that are damaged and need to be replaced.
While he believes the raise will help him afford a better living, he can't say it will make a drastic difference.
“With the $15 an hour, when we finally end up reaching that, if the prices of everything continue to go up, then it wouldn’t matter," he said.
Advocates of the increase, however, said the higher wages will lift people out of poverty and help them keep up with the cost of living increase, as well as allowing them to contribute to the economy by having more money to spend.
"It's sad that it took this long in order for us to get $10 an hour," said Gail Rogers.
Rogers has worked at McDonald's in Ybor City for eight years and says she’s never reached $10 an hour, until now.
"Getting this dollar on our wages, it's still not what we need, we need more than $15. We’re living in poverty still," said Rogers.
For tipped servers, the increase goes up to $1.35 an hour from what they were making.
Experts say one-fourth of Florida workers will get the increase, but it may not be the only thing increasing.
"My pay role at one of my stores, just the weekly increase went up to $2,800," said John Horne owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar.
Horne says it will no doubt drive up costs for customers.
"If we keep raising the menu to cover all of our increase, labor products, etc., people are going to stop eating out as often as they do in Florida," said Horne.
Some employers are already moving to automated systems so they don’t have to pay a human employee, and Chris Jones who economics professor at USF says the long-term impact of raising minimum wages may be counterproductive.
"Not only do additional labor costs potentially increase the costs of providing goods and services and purchasing power for everybody but then you start getting the questions from higher-paid workers——why shouldn’t my pay increase as well?" said Jones.
As for people like Rogers who struggle to get by, she doesn’t think it should have to be on the ballot for big corporations, like McDonald's, to pay employees more.
"Why can’t it go up to $15 before 2026?"