Florida Sen. Dan Gelber (D) , Sen. Joe Negron (R) and Sen. Jeff Atwater (R) held a workshop in the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.
A transcript of Equality Florida's Mallory Wells's full remarks is available after the jump.
Thank you Chairman Negron and the rest of the committee and the staff for allowing us to have this discussion today.
My name is Mallory Wells and I am the Public Policy Director for Equality Florida. Equality Florida is a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and we strongly believe in the 6 pillars the chamber has put forward as a way for economic recovery in Florida.
The issue we are discussing today, expanding Florida's Civil Rights' Codes touches on 3 of the 6 pillars, and I would like to address those three today: Talent, Business Competitiveness and Quality of Life.
The First is Talent. The ability to recruit and retain top talent has a direct connection to the willingness to protect the entire workforce from discrimination and ensure skill and job performance, not prejudice, determine someone's success or failure. In the packet you will find an article from Richard Florida that discusses the importance of diversity in economic development.
If there is one area in which government ought to run more as a business it is in the area of recruiting top talent, and that means, as one executive from Pepsico put it, allowing employees to feel like they can bring their "whole selves" to work.
The Second is Business Competitiveness. When major companies look for places they will relocate, within the matrix of consideration is the presence or absence of legal protections. In order to competitively recruit major companies we cannot create obstacles for ourselves. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies, have these protections, including major Florida employers like Disney, CSX, Carlton Fields, JetBlue, CitiBank/CitiCard, Wells Fargo, Darden, Tech Data and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida have inclusive policies. The list goes one and on, and there is a longer list in the packet we have prepared. They know that in the modern market place, it gives them a competitive disadvantage to not fully protect all employees.
At the heart of both of these pillars is quality of life. More than half of the state of Florida already has legal protection at the local level. Many state legislators, after the handkerchiefs drops for sine die, will return to communities with fully inclusive legal protections. These places include, Gulfport, Tampa, Orlando, Broward County and Gainesville.
The problem now is it is a patchwork quilt. Someone can live in a place with protections and drive to work in a place that has none. Someone can work for a company with protections then be denied the service at a restaurant during their lunch hour. Quality of life is a factor in competitiveness and recruiting top talent to the state of Florida. The ability to work and live without fear of discrimination in public accommodations, housing and employment adds to one's overall quality of life.
Imagine a world where no matter how well you did at your job, a manager could tell you they don't want "your kind" working here. A world where you could be kicked out of your home because your landlord doesn't like "people like you".
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act fixes this. By supporting this legislation we can send a clear message that Florida wants to recruit top talent. That hard work, not prejudice, decides how far you can go. That the rules are the same for everyone, that discrimination has no place in our society.
Each time we have expanded the list of categories in Florida' Civil Rights Codes, it has been a recognition that freedom and fairness is at the heart of who we are as a country and as a state.
This is not a bold step. This is not a new frontier. These protections are common across the country, they cover the majority of the state. They are protections that leading businesses have adopted. These are basic legal protections that ought to exist across Florida, not here and there. It's not only the right thing to do; economically, it's the smart thing to do.
We know support exists on both sides of the aisle for the commonsense language of this bill. We have the chance to improve Florida's place as one of the best places to live and work and as a desirable place for companies to launch and expand. Support talent, support recruitment, support quality of life, support this bill.