Who is taking the Minimum Wage Challenge, and why? UPDATE!

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 3.11.10 PMIt takes a lot of time and energy to be poor. That’s why the Minimum Wage Challenge set out by the SEIU to call attention for the need to raise the minimum wage is so important — and so incredibly well thought out.

When you’re living on low wages you have to be laser focused. Every purchase is strategic. You know how much money you have (none). You can’t get sick. Your car is unreliable. You’re driving on re-treads. You might have expired tags because you can’t afford to renew them. If you’re like me when was a low-wage earner, you have roommates — lots of them. What little spare time you have goes into nurturing your family, or sharpening your skills that can increase your earning power. Likely, you don’t have cable, insurance or pets. Any little unexpected crisis will set you back months, and could end in disaster. You just want to be normal and not have to worry about this stuff anymore.

It’s imperative that our lawmakers understand how difficult this is, and that’s why I’m so excited there are so many amazing lawmakers who announced they’re taking the Minimum Wage Challenge this week. Around October 12 we’ll find out more about the candidates who are taking the challenge.


What is the Minimum Wage Challenge?

SEIU launched the minimum wage challenge campaign on September 28 to call on elected officials and community members to live on Florida’s minimum wage of $8.05 an hour for 5 days and document the experience on social media. The challenge is designed to highlight the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and push elected officials to do everything they can to make a $15 minimum wage a reality for Florida workers.

Right now it looks like 20 Florida legislators have taken the challenge, as well as Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph. The list seems to be growing by the day. Candidates taking the challenge will officially be announced on October 12, but we know that Susannah Randolph, running for U.S. Congress in CD-10 and Carlos Guillermo Smith running for State Legislature in HD-49 have already signed up. We’re hoping that many more will join in. 

Currently I’m blown away by State Representative Victor Torres Jr.’s Facebook timeline documenting his commitment to the challenge. Please check out his work on this here.

You can TAKE ACTION NOW by contacting your Florida legislator and urge them to sponsor the $15 minimum wage bills.

You can join in too. Here’s the rules of The Challenge:

1. You have budget of $85 per week or $17 per day for all of your expenses excluding housing, car payments, credit card bills & childcare expenses.

2. You must stick to this budget for all other expenses during the five days of the challenge.

3. Participate in one task per day during the week, as outlined below under “Let’s get started.” You don’t need to do the tasks in that order or on those particular days if that’s not possible with the exception of Monday and Friday tasks.

4. Post a minimum of one social media post per day that includes either a picture or video describing your experience and any challenges that you faced each day. Every social media post should include the hashtags #FLfor15 and #FightFor15

5. At the end of the challenge, post a video to Facebook or Twitter challenging five people to take the challenge. Remember to tag the people that you are challenging.

Let’s Get Started – Recommended Schedule of Tasks for the Week

Day 1 Monday: Announce that you’re taking the challenge
Announce that you’re taking the minimum wage challenge with a press statement (elected officials only) and social media post. Explain why you’ve decided to take the challenge and what you hope to learn from living on minimum wage for five days.

Day 2 Tuesday: Grocery Shopping Trip
Take a grocery shopping trip and post a video and/or photos of this shopping trip to Facebook/Twitter. Talk about what difficult decisions you had to make due to your budget limitations.

Day 3 Wednesday: Transportation
Ride with a low wage worker (if possible) to work or take public transportation on your own to work. Document how long the trip is, how much it costs, etc.  How much time do you lose with public transportation vs. taking your car? Post a video and/or pictures to social media of this trip.

Day 4 Thursday:  Social Activities
Post on social media posts around social activities.  What would you normally be doing that you can’t do this week?  Dinner with friends, a movie, etc.  Are there affordable options within your budget?

Day 5 – Friday: Summary of Challenge

Today’s social media posts should summarize what you’ve learned this week by living on minimum wage. How will this help you be a better advocate to raise the minimum wage?

Minimum Wage Challenge Budget

We allocated $85 total for the 5 days based on a person making Florida’s current $8.05 minimum wage working 40 hours per week after taxes.

Here’s the breakdown:

Weekly Income. The challenge gives you a weekly budget of $322 per week based on 40 hours of work at $8.05 per hour.

Taxes. From your $322 salary, take out $37 for taxes, so that comes to $285 per week.

Housing Expenses.  Deduct $200.00 per week for housing and utilities. This is the average amount a minimum-wage worker in Florida pays for housing.

Final Budget. Deducting the taxes and housing costs from a $285 weekly salary leaves $85.00 per week or $12.14 per day. Since we’re asking folks to do the challenge for 5 days we divided $85.00 by 5 which leaves $17 per day. However a minimum wage worker would really have $12.14 per day. So those taking the challenge are catching “a little break.”

This amount has to cover all non-housing expenses, including food, healthcare, transportation and entertainment.

Here’s the complete list of Legislators who have accepted the Minimum Wage Challenge as of today:

State Senators:

Dwight Bullard, D-Miami
Jeffrey Clemens, D-Lake Worth
Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando
Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach

State House Representatives:

Victor Torres, D-Orlando
José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami
Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey
John Cortes, D-Kissimmee
Bobby Dubose, D-Fort Lauderdale
Kristen Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek
Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg
Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens
Sharon Pritchett, D-Miramar
Darryl Rousson, D-St. Petersburg
Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood
Cynthia A. Stafford, D-Opa Locka
David Kerner, D-Palm Springs
Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee
Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens
Cynthia Stafford, D-Opa Locka



Check out this update in the Miami New Times on how State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami ran into a reality-sized brick wall while on Day 2 of the Minimum Wage Challenge. He was waiting for the bus to get work when he realized it wasn’t coming on time, and he had no choice. He had to get to work. He Uber’ed.

“I had based my timing on the online schedule, but I was there waiting,” he says. “And then finally I got a ride downtown because I had to be at the courthouse.” Getting to the courthouse on time meant taking Uber which blew his budget and meant a Minimum Wage #FAIL. “People living on the minimum wage would have showed up late and gotten chewed out by their boss or gotten up earlier,” Rodriguez says of his experience. “Either way, the commute takes three times as long as it should.”

These are realities that low-wage workers face in Florida every day. In Orlando public transportation could really use a makeover. Some LYNX routes are so convoluted that workers can face up to two-hour commutes — if they can find a seat on the bus. If you can’t find a seat, or your bus is late, you’re the one who gets fired.

Let’s be clear. This is not a failure for Rep. Rodríguez. This is a failure of our system and we aim to fix it.

Here’s an old video I made to illustrate the problem of eliminating bus routes in Orlando. Enjoy.


Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy in “words + pictures” for clients ranging from banking and financial services to radical nuns. She’s the Senior Political Correspondent for Progressive News Network, the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Outreach Chair for the Orange County Democratic Party, and the 2015-2016 Co-Chair of New Leaders Council, Orlando Chapter.

 All opinions offered here are her own, delivered from the perspective of social theory and cultural criticism. For topical use only. Apply liberally.

awesome dogs couchYou can easily find Brook Hines on Facebook and Flickr. Read all of Brook’s articles here. 

These are her Italian Greyhounds, Trouble and Daphne. Trouble is a rescue and according to some new information, he might be a Whippet. Daphne would just like more attention. 


  1. Shameless grandstanding. They live in their mansions, do this for a week and think that this is some type of noble cause.. It’s probably the first time they will step in a grocery store. I remember the time President Bush #1 went to a grocery store and was in awe of the price scanners. They had been around for awhile. Just shows he hadn’t been in a grocery store for a very long time. Let these grandstanding politicians do it for a year and live in an apt. Maybe then I would have some respect for their cause, but probably not.


    1. I urge you to check out Rep. Vic Torres’ documentary of his work on this linked above. I can tell you he doesn’t live in a “mansion,” and likely isn’t changing much to meet the demands of the challenge.


  2. Agree with Elaine. This is shameless grandstanding. I can go a week and not pay one healthcare cost. I just arrange my appointments, insurance payments, etc. outside of those 5 days.

    I say give them the full $285 per week and have them move into a extended stay hotel for a week – can’t go back to the real home for anything. How many of them will sign up for that?

    This is just nonsense so they can all say, “Wow that was tough, but I could’ve done it with twice as much money ($15 per hour).”


  3. You are right, I shouldn’t have lumped them all into a small box and some probably mean well. I do agree the minimum wage should be raised too. But no one can know what it is like to live this way for one week. Obviously I struck a nerve and if I offended anyone I do apologize. However, I think this is a great article. Also, I may be wrong but some of these politicians couldn’t even list their true addresses. Some were falsified so they could run in a district they knew they could win. Such as a trailer park when actually they lived on a huge horse farm, and someone who listed a small apt. In Ft. Lauderdale when they lived in a huge house in Boca. Of course this has not been fact checked. At any rate you get the drift and for the most part I stand by my opinions. Also, since Senators and Representatives represent all Floridians, I think this is a stupid law, but it is the law. But as a great Hero stated, “if you can take it, I can make it”. Again, great article!!!!!!


    1. Strikes a nerve with me too! It actually took days to write this b/c I kept trying to write from my own personal experience growing up on Social Security (adopted by retired/disabled grandparents), and living on low wages well into my 30s. It made me realize there’s the potential for this Challenge to be confused with the BS idea of *resilience* that “well meaning non-profits” are using to “address poverty.” We ended “welfare as we know it” and replaced it with finger wagging counseling: “how resilient are you, really?” The notion behind this is if your employer doesn’t pay you fairly, you should just learn how to do more with less. It’s infuriating. How about the employer pay a fair wage?

      Even the least well-to-do legislators are infinitely more resilient than any low wage earner. They have all the necessities in place. They can immediately call off the Challenge and go about their lives. That’s why it’s just as important to report the “failures” to the Challenge, as it is to report the Challenge itself. We have to show how impossible it is in Florida for a low wage earner to make ends meet. Public transportation sucks. Social services have been disemboweled. Rent has skyrocketed. It’s time to push back.

      Here’s a pretty good article on “resilience” counseling and how it perpetuates poverty.


  4. Suddenly without wages changing a friend was cut from 200 a month to 100 a month for food stamps.Now it is nothing.No change in wages. So the trickle the republicans can squeeze away from our taxes going to developers only now manages to help a few. Children are going to sleep hungry in Orlando. But the Good Old Boys at Orlando Country Club are doing just fine thank you. So those taxes taken out? It then goes to developers and not to us.


  5. patrianakos · ·

    A triple Fail on Rep. JJ’s part. Not only did that fare break his budget, you can not use Uber without a smartphone and a valid credit card, and there’s no way that driver’s clearing $8.05 an hour, much less $15 – not on 95 cents a paid mile, less Uber’s 25 percent cut, less his own expenses keeping that car on the road.


  6. Brook, just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your columns. You have done well for yourself and I admire your tenacity greatly. I do agree with your respnse and thank you for it. I too came from a working class family that lived paycheck to paycheck but never realized we were poor financially, because we were rich with love. You make great points and are already a great success. Thanks again!


  7. Ruth Ann Eaddy · ·

    I would love to see a study regarding the addition to the Central Florida economy if all of the entertainment companies were mandated to raise the minimum wage to $15.00. The Disney employees in France and Japan seem to do very well. Do you really think that Disney, Universal Studios, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld and all of the other entertainment companies would reduce the services to their customers and lay off employees? I don’t think so..you know a large portion of their customers are coming from countries all over the world. They are rich and can pay the large food, lodging and ticket costs. The employees of the entertainment industry in Florida can only afford to take their families to these parks because the companies provide some free tickets. Most of the employees on minimum wage qualify for food stamps…this is Corporate welfare and the Republicans don’t want welfare for the poor, but will allow large businesses to take advantage of their employees. Every worker that works a 40 hour week deserves a living wage and this includes the workers that have 2 jobs to make ends meet. They work 2 jobs because the employers don’t want to provide benefits. Where is the respect for labor? Where would these companies be without labor?


  8. Fleming Fisher · ·

    Great, timely piece. I agree that Rep. Rodriguez’ experience doesn’t represent a failure on his part. What it shows is how easily and rapidly problems cascade for people trying to make a living at low wages. No car means taking the bus. Taking the bus means being late. Being late can mean yet another opportunity lost. And so on.

    We don’t offer a lot of ways for people to live normal lives outside of full-time employment at a substantial wage. The author is right that better infrastructure in terms of things like reliable, inexpensive mass transit would help. So would national healthcare, because even the ACA hasn’t provided affordable health care outside of the ridiculous employer-subsidized model. And of course, Florida Republicans have schemed to ensure there is no guarantee that lower wage workers can take time off with an illness without risk of being fired.

    Also — I just saw this article was chosen as one of Progress Florida’s Best of the Blogs — so congratulations on that!

    Liked by 1 person

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