John Morgan Minimum Wage Amendment Press Conference


John Morgan announcing the Supreme Court approval for the Fair Wage Amendment on the 2020 ballot.

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- Orange Avenue and I4. I never blame myself . So yesterday was a historic day for the working people of Florida. We had so many calls for interviews and radio interviews that we decided just to do this and kill a lot of birds with one stone. So welcome to all you birds you here. I'll say a couple of things. First thing that I'm grateful to, is, of course, the Supreme Court. They could have gone further, but they decided to follow the constitution, not deal with the economic side of this where they really had no purview and just dealt with the language itself. So I'm grateful to the Supreme Court . There's a lot of smart people up there. The second thing I would say is one of the articles I've been reading have talked about legislators who are saying this is not needed, that they're pushing back, that this is not needed. And most of these people are my friends. Jose Oliva is the Speaker of the House, and I read that he was opposed to this. I've got, at my house, a box of Oliva cigars signed by Jose. So you can be friends and you can disagree. But what I would say to Jose and to Bill Galvano, and to Governor DeSantis, who I have a huge amount of respect for, don't have any problems with that guy, is look. You have had a lot of time to do something about these inadequate wages. You've had session after session after session after session. And you got a session coming up. And if you got a better idea than my idea do something. Put up or shut up. Unless you believe that it's fair that the middle wage is going to go from this year $8.46 an hour to $8.56. A dime. A dime raise. Is a constitutional amendment the perfect way to address the minimum wage? Of course not. But it's the only way. And the reason we know it's the only way is because we've seen it in other things in Florida. We solved Fair Districts. The only way Fair Districts came to be was through a constitutional amendment. We saw felons rights restored not in the legislature, but through a constitutional amendment. We saw medical marijuana legalized not in the legislature, but through a constitutional amendment. What we all know is that these legislators are beholden to special interests. And special interests do not want to pay a fair wage. So what my challenge today would be to my friends Jose Oliva and Bill Galvano and Governor DeSantis is look. If you think you got a better idea than me, do it. If not, this is the only way. The next thing I would say is let's make sure when we make the headlines $15 an hour that we're careful about that, because the way it works, and this is very important to the voters, and I did it this way because I don't want it to be hit with a thud. It's $10 an hour in 2021. It's $11 an hour in 2022. It's boom, boom, all the way to $15 to 2026. That's a long time. And you know why it's a long time? You want me to prove it to you? I'll be 70 years old. I know I look like a million dollars, and it's probably hard for you all to believe that that is even possible that this young, virile looking guy could be 70 years old when it goes into effect. But that's how old I will be or dead. Remember, I've led a really hard life. Raised a lot of hell, smoked a lot of cigars, and drank a lot of Makers Mark. So don't even count on me being here in six, seven years. And that's a very important. They just keep calling it $15 an hour. Call it $10 an hour, because that's more accurate of what we're doing. Then the next thing I will say is why me, why now? A lot of that does have to do with me being 63 years old. I have been extremely fortunate in my business life. I've invested in my attractions, hotels, all sorts of shopping centers, and have made more money than I ever thought possible. One of the things you do as you go along is you start to think what do I owe? What should I be doing? What is my responsibility? What is my duty? And what I've always thought is that I've always been called to is to do more for people, and the common thread I've always looked for is dignity. That's why we built Morgan & Morgan Hunger Relief Center and Second Harvest. That's why we built the ultimate John Morgan Center and Harbor House. That's why we have the trunks and the mustard seed. It's all about food and water, medicine, dignity. That's what medical marijuana was all about. And the millions and millions and millions I spent on medical marijuana was well worth it, and I'll tell you why. Because hundreds of thousands of people benefited, and I can't go to a grocery store without being thanked for it. So it was worth it. So as I look at what I'm supposed to do, I know this is a risk because we've spent millions of dollars to get it to this point. But when I look at the risk and then I look at the reward the way I look at things in business, the benefit that I can give to the people of Florida forever and ever and ever and ever, and not just them, everybody else, their wages are gonna go up to, would be the greatest philanthropy in my life if it passes. Because the millions I spent will turn into hundreds of millions and billions of dollars over time. And so I'm doing it because I believe I'm supposed to do it. I'm doing it because when I look at people I actually feel there suffering. I actually look at people and go, "That's not fair." And I am grateful to God that he gave me that gene to feel the way I feel about people. And their suffering is immeasurable. They get up everyday and do everything right, and then have to take their children by the hand and go out to the Morgan & Morgan Hunger Relief Center and get free food. No, that should not be. We have a great housing crisis you read about all the time. You all report about it all the time. Housing crisis. Why do we have a housing crisis? Because people cannot afford to pay rent. People cannot afford to buy a house. That's the crisis. This fixes a lot of things. This fixes the housing crisis, because now with a fair wage people can rent an apartment or buy a house. And by the way, this is a conservative act by me politically and I'll tell you why. Because people right now have to make a decision do I work or not work? Do I go on government assistance and stay home or do I get up and work? And when they do the math they go, you know what? It really makes more sense for me to stay home and take the food stamps and to take the government handout and to take free whatever. The burden, that burden falls heavily on taxpayers. Who pays for the government assistance? Taxpayers do. So when I tell my conservative friends what I'm doing, I say this is as conservative a political move as I can think of. And then I think about what I really believe. And what I really believe is that in life that there should a separation between church and state. I firmly believe that. But I can never separate what I've learned in church. And what I have learned in church is when I was hungry you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty you gave me to drink, when I was homeless you housed me, when I was naked you clothed me. I got to go to Israel this fall, and I got to walk around in all the places that He walked. And I will tell you, it made me feel like absolutely that I'm doing the right thing because that's what I was taught. Now, you're gonna hear people talk about it as political. It's not a political issue. This is a moral issue. This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with right and wrong, a fundamental fairness and dignity. People are, "Prices are gonna go up, "people are gonna be displaced." People are not gonna be displaced from their jobs. If you need people to wash the car, you're gonna have people to wash the car. All these people who are so concerned about people losing, they're not concerned about people losing their job. They're concerned that their prices might go up. Well, let me tell you something. I'll pay 50 cents more for a hamburger for somebody to have dignity. I'll pay a little bit more. Won't you? Shouldn't you? Shouldn't we? But just to show you how much BS that all is, when I came to Florida from Kentucky I got a job working at Walt Disney World and I did magic in the magic stores in the '70s. If you want to have fun, take me out for a drink and let me do magic tricks for you. Single greatest night of your life. You know what the tickets cost to get in to Disney World back in those days? $3. Google it. If you were a kid under three, a dollar. You know what we were paying those stores? Like $2.30, $2.50 an hour. Now, over time wages have risen. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.46 an hour. Not livable. A ticket at Walt Disney World is $110 to $130. Not because wages went up, but because corporations wanted to make more money on the backs of the working poor. There's no doubt that the Dow Jones is skyrocketing because they make all this money and pay zero taxes while people work at Disney, read the Orlando Sentinel article, and live in their car. So when people say it's gonna make prices go up, prices are gonna go up because corporate America doesn't care about anything except their shareholder price and their own personal bonuses. And so I'm counting on Florida and Floridians to do the right thing. I'm betting on the compassion and decency and goodness and love of Floridians. 60% is a very, very, very high threshold. It's a landslide in politics as all you journalists know. So it'll be an uphill climb. Some people ask me, well, what if you lose? You wasted all that money. Well, in the world that I live in I can't lose, because I only answer to one person, and as long as I try I didn't lose. The working poor will have lost, and the people who put their own interest over them will lose. But I won't lose. And it seems like every time I read about it they're all so worried about the restaurant industry. Okay. Now, look, I'm an investor in restaurants. I don't control them, but I'm an investor in some major restaurants. Let me tell you about the restaurant industry. First of all, in the first year 60% of all restaurants fail. In the first four years 80% of every restaurant fails. It's a dead end business. It's an impossible business. All of would love to have a restaurant, own a bar, have a sporting goods store. It's like a dream we had as we were a kid. And we're in the business of wage and hour violations. You know who we sue more than any other industry for cheating people out of their wages, their overtimes, their tips? Restaurants, because the business is a dead end business. Yet the woman who runs the industry lives on a horse farm raising these horses that kind of walk around, these rich people horses. You've seen them, dressage or whatever they are. The horses rich people have dressed up with feathers and shit. And makes $350,000 a year. And she said, "This is too much." The fact that they're paying you $350, I wouldn't pay you 50,000 for what you do. So that is the background. We've got nine months to go. I'm not sure Governor DeSantis is against this. I haven't heard him say that. I know this. Most politicians, if they were left to their own private room and their own private prayer, they'd say, you know what? John's right. But the chamber of commerce won't let me do it. Because the chamber of commerce likes the idea of slave labor. We had slave labor in this country once. Free labor, slave labor. And we liked slave labor so much that the country went to war over it. We went to war over it and killed each other, brothers fighting brothers, over keeping men and women slaved. Well, what I'm fixing to do is go to war on behalf of the working poor in Florida. I had no intention of ever running for a political office. I had no intention of ever doing one of these ever again. I have every intention of spending most of my days in my house in Maui, Hawaii, or Ponce de Leon, Florida, or New Hampshire. This is, without question, my last crusade. And I'm gonna give it everything I have and I'm asking Florida to help me help those that need it the most. So I'll take you all's questions now if you have any. - [Male] I have a question. By 2026, for only $15 an hour will be not a lot of money for people to make a living. Why it wasn't proposed more money, like $20? - Well, look. You have to figure out what can pass at the ballot box. And what we felt could pass was that, but then we also have a cost of living raise tied to that $15. So once it hits 15, as time goes on it goes up. But you're right. Look, $15 an hour is not great. In my law firm we have over 3,000 employees and I made the minimum wage for all my employees, a minimum wage of $15 an hour. And when we went around and told people about it my employees were sobbing. Sobbing, because it was that life-changing. It's that dramatic. We don't want to think about it because we don't live it. But you need to think about it. You need to look at it. But this is a constitutional amendment. This language has to be so narrow that if it violates what's called the single subject rule then the Supreme Court would have thrown me out yesterday. And so that's why. And that's why I challenged the Florida legislature today to do the right thing. If you think my idea is a bad idea, what's your idea? And if you don't have an idea, I'm gonna remind the voters in November your idea was $8.56 an hour forever. - [Male] Have you spoke to Governor DeSantis? Or do you have any plans to have a one-on-one with him about all this? - I've not spoken to him since he came to Winter Park. I sued the State for the smoking ban. The reason I'm hopeful about DeSantis, I'm happy that Governor DeSantis is our governor. He's done nothing in his year that has me upset. When he came and met with me, he said, "Look, I'm dropping this lawsuit, "because I read the language and it's unambiguous." The great thing about DeSantis, he's smart. Harvard, Yale law School. And he's a smart guy and he sees things in black and white. I mean, they're all worried about the restaurant industry. I'm not worried about the restaurant industry. What the restaurant industry should do, is a lot of them should never open in the first place, because 80% of them are gonna go broke and lose everything. I remember I had a friend I went to church with who came out to see me. He worked for a company and he was draining all of his 401k and his life savings to open up a Milky Moo ice cream place in Port Orlando, and I said, "Dude, I am begging you "do not open up Milky Moo." He lost it all. His wife's a maid now. That was 10 years ago. Trying to live the dream. - [Male] How's business for you since you raised wages? - Business for me is fantastic. My employee turnover is less and less and less. They are more productive. I had a visitor that came in the other day to see, my call center is out on 434. And he said, "John, what I couldn't get over "was how happy everyone was." Now remember, $15 an hour, that's just where we begin. There's bonuses on top. Like in the call center there's bonuses on top of bonuses. People in the call center making $40-$50-$60,000 a year. So my business, the raise itself cost me day one $4 million forever. But as you can see, I haven't missed many meals since then. - [Male] Do you see the legislature trying to counter this ballot measure by enacting their own just to keep it off the ballot? - They can't keep it off the ballot. Only I can keep it off the ballot. They can do something that they can work and compromise with me. Because look. Constitutional amendment is the measure of last resort. Because you can't tinker with things you'd like to tinker with. But the reason Donald Trump is President of the United States is because of the desperation of people. They work harder and harder and harder and harder and fall further and further and further and further behind. It's like they're in quick sand, and when they start to pull themselves out of the quick sand with a vine they almost get out of the quick sand, but they're still in it. And the transmission goes out in their car and then slide back into quick sand. And they're still holding on to the vine with their head above water. Because 50% of Americans do not have $400 in the bank. Transmission, I think, costs more than $400. I haven't had to replace one for a long time. But I remember when I did, it's game over. Or your air conditioning goes out. I remember when we were little boys and we were poor. And I will say this. People ask me, what was it like being poor? I say it was bad being poor, but I was okay about it and I'm glad I was poor because I will never forget the taste of desperation and helplessness, and hopelessness, and powerlessness, which has been with me my whole life since then. Our air conditioning went out one time in Florida. We didn't get it repaired for 18 months. We all slept in this one room in a bunk bed. We had a fan on a piano stool. We'd just keep waking up in the middle of the night moving the. Some of y'all probably had the same thing where you wake up and your brother's got up out of bed and he's taken the fan and moved it on him, tilted it up there. 18 months. And you lay there and listen. But there's other people is a lot worse shape in that, because they're laying in their car in July, and then get up and go in to Walt Disney World. And if you don't believe me read that what should be a Pulitzer Prize winning series that was just done by those journalists at the Orlando Sentinel, because it'll lay it all out for you. In our own backyard. The children of these people, they don't know what Walt Disney World is. They've never been to Walt Disney World. They have no clue what Walt Disney World is like. But they're never gonna go to Walt Disney World. And they live in the backyard. Can you imagine how horrible? - [Female] I believe you said at the beginning of the press conference that you were grateful to the Florida Supreme Court, but they could have gone further. How so? - Well, there was Attorney General Moody, by the way, we're great friends too. She wanted them to address the financial impact that this would have on Florida. And they said in their opinion it had been addressed in the lower court. They said, look, the constitution does not allow us to go there and we're not gonna go there. They are, this DeSantis court are strict constructionists and the constitution is the constitution. And people who are strict constructionists believe that they're not there to make law, that they're there to follow law. So the reason I'm grateful to the Supreme Court is they followed the law and they followed the constitution. And they were not an activist court doing the bidding of whatever they wanted it to be. They did what was right. - [Male] Quick question about the story in 2026. After that, the amendment says there'll be increases due to the cost of living. But who implements that? Is there a worry that a legislator, future legislation or legislators will do what they did with medical marijuana and just sort of hobble it? Is there? - It'll be tied to COLA. - [Male] Okay. - It'll be tied to COLA. But look, I'll always worry about the Florida legislature. I mean, look at everything that's happened. Look at everything that's happened with felons rights. Now they gotta pay a fine to vote. Look what happened with medical marijuana. The letter of intent, the intent language said it shall be smoked, and they said no, you can't smoke it. And then I had to sue them. So always worry about politicians, because in the medical marijuana side who was my enemy? Who was against me and the sick people of Florida? The pharmaceutical industry. Who has more money than anybody? The pharmaceutical industry. Who do they give the money to? They don't want people smoking marijuana. They don't want people vaping. They don't want people eating edibles. Because if they do that, then they don't need Oxycontin. They don't need Fentanyl. They don't take Percocet. They don't take Xanax. It's billions of dollars. So it's real money when you get to the Florida legislature. And this is real money because people like slave labor. Can you imagine if you could have a maid at your house for free? That's what slavery was. How many people want one? I mean, it outrageous. Okay. - [Female] Any questions on the phone? - Any questions on the phone? Any questions on the phone? Can they hear us? - [Female] I think we're good. - We're good. Thank you all.