BY BUDDY NEVINS
Freshman state Rep. Katie Edwards voted to kill Broward’s living wage law and was immediately hit with a wave of robocalls attacking her.
Edwards was the only Democrat to vote for the bill.
It would end the requirement that contractors pay employees a living wage on their Broward County projects.
“She has a reputation of trying to cut deals with Republicans. She’s out for herself,” one upset Democratic state representative said.
Katie Edwards: Voting with Republicans
The robocalls accused Edwards of having “voted to cut wages and worker benefits in Broward County…Rep. Edwards should be standing up for working families.”
An e-mail apparently from the same group sponsoring the calls — the Orlando-based Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment — accused Edwards of doing the bidding of her uncle, Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards. The business community in the Orlando area is pushing the bill.
Ted Edwards told the Orlando Sentinel that “Even though we have different party affiliations, she apparently has good sense.”
The bill was originally designed to preempt a voters referendum in Orlando, which would require employers to offer earned sick pay. The provision ending living wage requirements in Broward, Miami-Dade and other communities was tacked on somewhere in the process, according to Democrats.
The Republican sponsors of the bill argued that a statewide policy was needed to provide “certainty” to businesses.
The House passed the bill, HB 755, on a vote of 75-43. Republican state Rep. George Moraitis and Democrat Edwards were the only Broward lawmakers to support the bill.
Under the provisions of the proposal, which must still pass the Senate, Broward could no longer require those signing contract with the county pay a living wage. Living wage is an amount set above the minimum wage which is supposed to be the lowest salary that would meet daily needs.
County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who is the original sponsor of the living wage law about a decade ago, said she was disappointed by Edwards.
She said she talked to Edwards before last week’s vote. She said that Edwards misunderstood the benefits of Broward’s living wage ordinance.
Jacobs was optimistic that the bill could be stopped in the Senate.
“I’m hopeful that what I’ve spent my entire career working for and have a large amount of research showing its benefits to Broward County will prevail in the end….Isn’t it ironic that the governor and Republicans are talking about raising state (employee) salaries, while they are doing this?” Jacobs said.
Obviously sensing the potential political damage her vote could have, Edwards e-mailed supporters arguging that “This debate was not a fight between employers and employees. This bill was about curtailing how far local government could go in regulating that quintessential relationship that is at the core of our economy.”
A House Democrat said the language of the letter “parrots the Republican free-market, let businesses do anything line.”
Her entire letter is below:
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From: “Katie Edwards”
Date: April 5, 2013, 6:38:16 PM EDT
Subject: Message from Katie
You may have received a mysterious robocall this afternoon about me. I wanted to let you know what is going on so you are not alarmed. Special interests from Orlando are attacking me because I stood up for the jobs and people in my community.
Let me set the record straight, in my own words. I voted for HB 655 to protect the very jobs in my district that have helped improve Broward’s infrastructure. I voted for HB 655 to prevent local governments from injecting themselves into the employer-employee relationship by dictating what additional benefits businesses must provide for their employees. I voted for HB 655 because I know that the market hates uncertainty, and Florida cannot have a thriving economy if every local government forces its own benefits policies on all businesses within their jurisdiction. HB 655 does not prohibit a county or city from providing its own employees with higher wages or benefits like paid sick leave, vacation, and health insurance. Also, HB 655 does not interfere with Davis-Bacon wage adjustments that protect our workers on federally funded projects.
As a former executive who has worked in the private sector, I appreciate the latitude and flexibility to develop benefits that were individualized for each employee. This flexibility allowed me to attract and retain the best and brightest employees while giving employees more choices in their benefits packages.
Placing a county commission or city council in charge of a business’ human resources department is not the answer.
This debate was not a fight between employers and employees. This bill was about curtailing how far local government could go in regulating that quintessential relationship that is at the core of our economy.
As always, I am happy to answer your questions or concerns.