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Little Havana businesses join in call to pass Florida Competitive Workforce Act

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A coalition of local businesses from Miami’s iconic Little Havana neighborhood are stepping up to join the fight for statewide discrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Along with the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the group of small business owners are the latest names to voice support for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.

With the new additions, more than 275 Florida companies and organizations have now backed the bipartisan legislation currently before the Florida Legislature. Two companion bills make up the Act: House Bill 33 from Republican Holly Raschein of Key Largo and Senate Bill 156 by Boynton Beach Democrat Joe Abruzzo.

Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Trowbridge says his organization, which voted unanimously to support the Act, is “pleased to back policy that promotes the economic interests and quality of life” in the state.

The Coral Gables Chamber represents approximately 1,550 members.

“Passing the Competitive Workforce Act will provide consistency for employers and employees across the state,” said Liliam Lopez, president and CEO of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a group representing nearly 1,300 members.

Small business owner Suzanne Batlle also voiced support for equal protections. Batlle’s Azucar Ice Cream is on the famous Calle Ocho (8th Street).

“As a business owner in an area known for its warmth in welcoming visitors, I support policies that create the best possible environment for businesses to succeed,” Batlle said. “If we really want to attract more tourists and businesses to Florida, we have to roll out the welcome mat to everyone.”

Over 20 Little Havana business owners are endorsing the Competitive Workforce Act, including the iconic Ball & Chain, Little Havana Cigar Factory, Exquisito Restaurant and Little Havana Visitor’s Center.

Among the other greater Miami business that have recently joined the movement for equality are the Barlington Group, Chef Michael Schwatz’s Genuine Hospitality Group, and Fortis Development Group.

By passing the Human Rights Ordinance in December, Miami-Dade County became the 28th municipality in Florida to offer fully inclusive protections for the LGBT community. More than half of all Florida citizens are now covered by equal protection ordinances.

However, inconsistencies in non-discrimination rights remain for employers across the state, as well as those individuals vulnerable to discrimination.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, an alliance of major employers, believes the Competitive Workforce Act will bring uniformity statewide and is a sound business strategy to draw the best and the brightest to our state.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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