Poverty is a serious problem here in Leon County. According to U.S. Census estimates from 2015, somewhere between 14.2% and 17.7% of Leon County residents live below the poverty line. In minority communities, the percentages are substantially higher, above 30% in some cases. The reality is that a lot of people in our community work a full-time job, yet still struggle to pay their bills or put food on the table for themselves and their families. Many of these people work as cashiers, stock clerks, or baristas - jobs that are important in a healthy economy but aren't respected and valued the way other jobs are. Let me be clear, no one who works a full-time job should be struggling to make ends meet, period. Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature has preemptively blocked municipalities from increasing their minimum wage, so we'll have to be creative if we want to improve conditions for these workers.
The root cause of this disparity stems from how most businesses are organized and operate day-to-day here in the United States. In large corporations, it's not uncommon for hundreds or even thousands of workers to have a hand in developing, marketing, and delivering a product or service, yet only a select few (specifically the Board of Directors) have any real say in how the profits are spent. That's how you end up with CEOs who make millions of dollars per year while many of their employees qualify for food stamps and other federal assistance programs. Under our current economic system, worker exploitation isn't a bug, it's a feature - it's what the system tends toward over time, as companies seek to increase profits any way they can.
While the inequalities tend to be much less pronounced in small businesses, the underlying problem remains the same (namely that the vast majority of workers have no say in how the profits they helped generate are spent). If democracy belongs anywhere, it belongs in the workplace, where most of us spend at least half of our waking hours each day from Monday through Friday. We need to fundamentally transform the workplace in order to most effectively address this underlying problem, which is why I proudly support the establishment of worker cooperatives. Every worker has to live with the decisions a business makes, so every worker should have a say in making those decisions.
As County Commissioner, I would work to:
provide information and startup capital (in the form of grants or low-interest loans) to individuals interested in starting a worker co-op here in Leon County
encourage the Commission to lead by example, by purchasing goods and services from local co-ops whenever possible