The diversity of our workforce benefits us all

By Steven Haas, Chairman of the Board of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Miami.

Our state thrives because of its diversity. As Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, I understand how business drives the economic growth that makes us a more prosperous state. This growth is powered by Florida’s diverse workforce, which is made of up qualified, hardworking individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Our state is strongest when it is welcoming to all people, and our economy benefits from treating workers based on the work they do, not on who they are. But many Florida workers do not have work-related protections.

Most people are surprised to hear that one can be fired in Florida simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), but those explicit protections do not exist. Firing workers for being who they are hurts not only the workers and their families but also harms our state’s thriving business community and thus the state itself. But one bill before the Florida Legislature this session, the Competitive Workforce Act, would end this.

Although Florida will soon become the nation’s third most populous state, we lag far behind many other states in the protections we offer to LGBT workers. If we’re going to compete with other strong state economies in this country, we need to ensure that we have a business climate where workers are valued for what they bring to the table, not judged for who they are. The Competitive Workforce Act would fix this and keep Florida competitive.

More and more states across the country are recognizing and opposing the harm that discrimination brings to their state. As more employees and employers become aware and concerned about the lack of protections in Florida—and as Florida falls farther and farther behind other states—employers will think twice about opening up offices or relocating here, and other companies will leave.

The case of Arizona is instructive: earlier this year, a bill was proposed that would have greatly weakened the protections of LGBT people. Some of our country’s largest employers—including AT&T, American Airlines, Delta, Intel, Apple, and Marriott, among others—opposed this legislation, and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker stated that the bill was “causing tremendous concerns for our employees, particularly those who live and work in Arizona.” There was even serious talk of taking the Super Bowl out of Arizona, which would have cost the local economy millions.

We can’t let that negative publicity come to Florida. In the middle of our economic recovery, we can’t offer those who create jobs any reason to take those jobs out of Florida or to not bring them to Florida in the first place.

I’m proud of Florida’s success as a business and tourism center, and I want to see that success continue. If we want to continue to grow, the legislature needs to make a stronger showing to our nation’s businesses that it means to protect their employees. The legislature should prove that Florida welcomes and values all workers by passing the Competitive Workforce Act.

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