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The Man Behind Florida’s New Minimum Wage Did It Without Either Party

Attorney John Morgan
John Raoux/Associated Press
Attorney John Morgan

The architect of a Florida referendum approved on Tuesday that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026 said that critics of the measure are making excuses.

“What we did yesterday was immediately improve the lives of 2.5 million households,” John Morgan said Wednesday afternoon.

The powerful Orlando-based trial lawyer, who has offices in Jacksonville and other cities, adopted a populist mantle in Florida in recent years, backing successful amendments allowing medical marijuana and restoring the right to vote to felons. He wrote and bankrolled the wage measure, spending $6 million of his own money securing the signatures and fighting efforts to keep the minimum wage initiative off the ballot.

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The referendum passed with just over the 60% threshold needed for passage. Florida is now the eighth state — and the first in the South — to adopt a $15 per hour minimum wage. Under the amendment to the state constitution, the minimum wage will go from $8.56 to $10 an hour next year and increase by $1 annually until 2026.

But the measure was approved without the support of either the Democratic or Republican parties in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke out against it, calling it a measure that would “close small businesses, kill jobs and reduce wages.”

Bill Herrle, director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida, said passage of the amendment “comes at the worst possible time,” during a pandemic when one-fifth of small businesses aren’t sure they’ll survive.

Morgan notes the minimum wage won’t go up until September 2021 and then in stages over five years.

“It’s an excuse,” he said. “Why don’t you try to live on $8.56 and then you come back and tell me how your life is going.”