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Study Shows Florida Unemployment Numbers Are Down, But Workers Aren't Benefitting

Union membership in Florida compared to the country.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey
Union membership in Florida compared to the country.

Low-wage jobs in Florida are one of the main reasons families live in poverty or near poverty, according to a new study by Florida International University.

The yearly report, “State of Working Florida,” found Florida’s economy to be unbalanced and unequal.

While unemployment numbers are down statewide, that has not made a dent in income disparity across the state.

According to the study, many of the new jobs being created are low-wage jobs. In 2016, 20 percent of Florida workers earned $10 or less an hour. As a result of so many low-wage jobs, the study found more families are living in economic insecurity.

Among the recommendations the study offers to combat this issue is to increase Florida’s minimum wage and the amount the state spends per student in public schools.

It also suggests promoting union membership.

“Things we want for ourselves, a good job, respect, able to earn pay and go home and spend time with your family is what everyone should have,” said Helene O’Brien, director of 32BJ SEIU, a service workers union. “The only way to get that is through power and the only way to get power is to be organized and stay organized and that’s all unions are.”

O'Brien said while she’s seen an uptick in local engagement with unions, there is still a lot of downward pressure on wages.

“Fortunately in South Florida, there are a lot of local elected officials from both parties who recognize that low-wage workers are not good for the economy,” said O’Brien. “So they actually have been better than the federal politicians in supporting higher wages and better working standards for workers in South Florida.”

It's also not just about pay, O'Brien added. She points to concerns about training for workers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in light of a shooting that took place there in January. 32BJ SEIU is pushing for better training for the safety of their workers and the passengers who travel through the airport.

Read the full FIU "State Of Working Florida" report below: 

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Wilson Sayre was born and bred in Raleigh, N.C., home of the only real barbecue in the country (we're talking East here). She graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she studied Philosophy.
Nadege Greencovers social justice issues for WLRN.
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