Jacksonville, Fla. — Robert E. Walkord’s first job was unloading trucks full-time at night while he attended Arkansas Tech full-time during the the day. That was in the 1960s. He was paid $ .85 per hour. Walkord graduated with a mathematics degree and started his business “from scratch” about 40 years ago.
Walkord owns Regency Cap & Gown Co., a domestic manufacturer of pastor and choir apparel for church and school. His factory and showroom anchors what used to be a shopping plaza on the corner of Atlantic Blvd. and Arlington Rd.
Walkord used to employ 155 people. He said he downsized his business in 2011 because Aetna Insurance cancelled his employee benefits policy after he failed to comply with one of the regulations imposed by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
But refighting the Obamacare battle is not a political issue in the 2014 Florida gubernatorial race between challenger and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) and incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R). Crist favors raising Florida’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, mirroring President Obama’s numeric goal for the nation.
Florida’s current minimum wage is $7.93 per hour, above the federal level of $7.25 per hour.
Scott said during the campaign that he supports the idea of a minimum wage but the private sector sets the rate. Moderator Jake Tapper asked Scott if he supports the concept of the government setting a minimum wage during the Oct. 21 gubernatorial debate hosted in Jacksonville.
“Sure. But the truth — but the bottom line is just because they set a minimum wage doesn’t mean you get a job,” said Scott, according to a Miami Herald transcript of the debate.
Across the parking lot from Regency Cap & Gown Co. is one of Winn-Dixie’s 485 grocery chain supermarkets. Winn-Dixie has been in operation under its present name since 1955. The corporation declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005 and was acquired in 2011 by Bi-Lo, another Southeastern grocery store chain. Bi-Lo Holdings is based in Jacksonville.
Tiffany Kaminsky just ended her part-time shift on early Tuesday evening, She is in her late 20s and attends Florida State College at Jacksonville. Kaminsky has worked on and off at Winn-Dixie in different capacities for 10 years; seven of those full-time with benefits.
She is now a senior cashier and earns $10.60 per hour. Baggers at Winn-Dixie earn minimum wage. When asked the hypothetical question of one bagger losing his or her job because the minimum wage was raised to $10.10 per hour, a spark lighted in Kaminsky’s eyes. In her opinion, the loss of one job to the benefit of others is a good idea.
“I love it,” she said, “it’s better in the long run for everyone as long as the price of living doesn’t go up.”
Dana Carswell lives in Arlington. After work on Wednesday evening she voted early at Regency Square Library. She does not feel $10.10 per hour is an unreasonable amount to pay employees and businesses should prepare for that. She said there is too much poverty in this country and too many people rely on the government to make ends meet.
Robert E. Walkord, Regency Cap & Gown Co., 7534 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32211 (904) 724-3500
Tiffany Kaminksy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dana Carswell, (904) 307 -6201