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In St. Pete, Dwight Dudley and Eric Lynn vow to live on minimum wages for a week

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Democratic state Rep. Dwight Dudley and CD 13 candidate Eric Lynn announced at a press conference outside of a McDonald’s in north St. Petersburg on Monday that they will live on minimum wages for the duration of this week, to show their support for workers striving to get the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour.

Last week, a total of 18 Democrats in the Legislature announced they would take the “Minimum Wage  Challenge.” Two other local lawmakers said to be taking the plunge — St. Petersburg’s state Rep. Daryl Rouson and Tampa state Rep. Ed Narain — were listed as speakers for the event, but did not appear.

“I came up hard, one of nine kids; it’s not going to be that hard for me to do,” announced Dudley to a group of reporters and about 20 activists standing behind as a steady rain descended. “But, I’m going to continue to eat my ‘peaonana’ sandwiches at lunch, and riding the bus some and taking my bike. It is tough for all the families who are trying to get by on minimum wage. It’s just not enough.”

“Here in Florida, we have 1.7 million people living in poverty,” said Eric Lynn, the only declared candidate in the CD 13 seat that’s being vacated by David Jolly next year. “That’s not the poverty that you and I think of. That’s people who are working 40 plus hours a week, and they’re still living under the poverty line, because our federal government will not raise the minimum wage.” Lynn said that he and his wife had planned to visit a toy store on Thursday to purchase a gift for their son. Alasha. That’s now off the table.

“I’m sad to say that my son will not be getting what he originally thought he was going to get, but I am proud, because we need to fight for the workers across Florida to make sure they get the wage that they deserve,” he said.

And he bemoaned the fact that in years past, Republicans and Democrats were able to come together to support raising the minimum wage in Congress. A la the “Ice Bucket Challenge” from the summer of 2014, Lynn called on two local officials to take the “Minimum Wage Challenge.”

One was St. Petersburg City Council member Amy Foster, because she’s been “fighting for workers” for years, and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, “because as I said earlier, Republicans and Democrats used to work together to raise the minimum wage for our country. But we’ve seen a Republican Party not willing to do that anymore, and I hope that both these people will accept my challenge.”

Baker has been rumored to possibly be a candidate on the Republican side for the CD 13 seat.

St. Petersburg childcare worker Demitra Atkins has been working in the same industry for 27 years. She applauds the lawmakers for taking the challenge.

“I think they forget where they started from, and they need to be reminded,” she said after the formal press conference had ended. “They swore to protect us, and we need to remind them that they’re not doing such a good job right now.”

Earlier this month, Miami Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard and Orlando state Rep. Victor Torres filed respective bills for the 2016 legislative session (SB6 and HB 109) that call for the state’s minimum wage to rise from $8.05 to $15.

There’s also a proposal in Congress sponsored by Minnesota Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison that would ultimately raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

HOW THE CHALLENGE WORKS FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS:

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

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

3. They must participate in one task per day during the week such as grocery shopping, riding to work with a low-wage worker (bus, walk, etc.) eating out, etc.

4. Post a minimum of one social media post per day that includes either a picture or video describing experiences and any challenges that you faced each day. Every social media post will 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.

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

State 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

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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