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As minimum wage ticks up, Orlando fast-food workers strike for $15 an hour now

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: An activist wears a "Fight For $15" T-shirt during a news conference prior to a vote on the Raise the Wage Act July 18, 2019 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The legislation would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The minimum wage across the state of Florida is now $10 an hour. 

It’s the first step in raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2026, a move some fast-food workers in Orlando say isn’t happening quickly enough. 

And some workers are striking for that reason today.

Fast-food workers with the Service Employees International Union are planning a one-day strike and a protest outside a McDonald's on International Drive.

Last year, Florida voters approved a $15 minimum wage phased in over six years, and it just went up to $10 an hour.

The workers are celebrating but want Congress and local restaurants to provide the $15 "living wage" now.

Anjannette Reyes, a wheelchair attendant at Orlando International Airport, will be joining fast-food workers as they protest for higher pay.

Reyes and other workers say Congress and local employers should make that happen now -- as housing costs and grocery prices rise and some people are working 15, even 18 hours a day.

"We’re trying to deal and trying to catch up on bills and sometimes, you know, you have to live without certain things just to catch up," she said. "And so, yes, we do need it now, not tomorrow, next year or two years from now. We need this 15 dollars right now."

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With the increase, Florida Chamber chief economist Jerry Parrish predicts a loss of entry level jobs.

"People need a way to get into the labor market," he said. "And people that have low skills are actually going to be penalized, because they'll be priced out of working in this kind of market."

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The non-partisan Florida Policy Institute estimates 646,000 Floridians are getting an immediate pay bump. They'll be earning $100 more a month.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.