(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Top executives, and business and community leaders representing the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce (FBCW) coalition joined lawmakers in the State Capitol this morning to demonstrate support for a pro-business issue slated to be heard by Florida lawmakers today. Senate Bill 120 by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach), commonly referred to as the Competitive Workforce Act, is scheduled to be heard by lawmakers in today’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at 1 p.m.
“I am honored to champion the Competitive Workforce Act in the Florida Senate and want to thank committee chairman, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), for placing the bill on today’s agenda,” said Abruzzo. “In order to remain economically competitive in a global marketplace, Florida must provide an environment that is welcoming to all. Overwhelmingly, our nation’s largest companies have endorsed the Competitive Workforce Act because it’s good for business and because it’s the right thing to do. Senate Bill 120, Prohibited Discrimination, affirms the importance of basic human rights.”
While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, the gay and transgender community is currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections. SB 120 and its companion in the Florida House of Representatives, House Bill 45 by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo), aim to address this by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the law. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers.
“Passing the Competitive Workforce Act will make our state more attractive to top talent, especially now that the Millennial generation is the largest segment of the U.S. labor force,” said FBCW Campaign Manager, Patrick Slevin. “This is the first time the legislation has been heard by Florida lawmakers, and we look forward to showcasing the support from business leaders in today’s committee meeting.”
Top employers in the state have united to form the FBCW coalition, which aims to grow Florida’s economy by attracting and retaining the best workers to the state with the promise of equal opportunity employment. Thirty-seven major Florida employers, including Fortune 500 companies AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo have joined, with more than 400 local businesses on board.
Here’s what coalition businesses had to say…
“Our operations and business partners are global, and the competition to attract top tech talent is steep. One of the avenues to develop and extend the talent pool in the state is to show Florida is open for business, opportunistic and a safe and welcoming environment to build a career and raise a family. The Competitive Workforce Act is an important way of signaling that Florida is a destination for talented workers and businesses,” said John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and CIO of Tech Data Corporation, Florida’s second largest public company employing 9,000 associates.
“Florida’s $82 billion hospitality industry employs more than 1.1 million Floridians making it the state’s number one industry. Passing the Competitive Workforce Act would offer protections for everyone using public accommodations and further demonstrate our state is a welcoming and safe place to visit,” said Carol Dover, President/CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, which represents more than 10,000 independent and household name members, suppliers and attractions.
“We are backing the Competitive Workforce Act because it provides additional discrimination protections in housing, and Florida Realtors® believes everyone should have a chance at the American dream of homeownership,” said Bill Martin, CEO of Florida Realtors®, the state’s largest trade association boasting more than 155,000 members.
“Hispanics have powered Florida’s population growth since 2000, currently ranking third in the country. The Competitive Workforce Act will not only benefit our network of 80,000 small business owners, but all Floridians as a welcoming place to work and grown a business,” said Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julio Fuentes.
“Three out of four Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination protections, and 37 Florida counties and municipalities already provide fully inclusive protections to residents, covering 55 percent of Florida’s population. That said, there has not been a huge wave of lawsuits filed as a result. Passing the Competitive Workforce Act is the right thing to do for Florida businesses and those who live here,” said Jason Altmire, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Community Engagement at Florida Blue, and former member of Congress (2007-13).
The coalition is led by Patrick Geraghty, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Florida Blue in Jacksonville; John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and Worldwide CIO of Tech Data Corporation in Clearwater; and Philip Dinkins, Senior Vice President of Cushman & Wakefield in Tampa. They serve as president, secretary and treasurer of FBCW, respectively.
About Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce
The Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce Coalition is a 501c(4) whose mission is to support passing the Competitive Workforce Act, which would modernize state law to include anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The coalition believes that the Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies. For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com or visit the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.