Miami Beach Hotel Employees Struggle to Pay to Park at Work as Rates Increase

Every day, Fountainebleau housekeeper Michela Joseph spends money to earn money.

The first thing Michela Joseph does when she shows up for her housekeeping job at the Fountainebleau in Miami Beach is park her car and pay.

"It's close to work," Joseph said about the lot on 46th Street and Collins Avenue. "It's the only one we have here."

Every day, Joseph spends money to earn money. Right now, the rate is a dollar an hour. But the city last year increased the rate to a flat rate of $20 a day -- meaning Joseph and her coworkers have to pay $400 a month.

"It's too much because it's really going to be hard for us because we have children to drop to school; to come here it’s not easy," she said. "It's too much, we can't afford it."

For now, hotel employees who use the lot are still able to pay the dollar-an-hour rate.

"We have to get to a solution," said Wendy Welsh of Unite Here, Local 355. 

Meanwhile, the city is considering offering limited permits at a reduced cost of $100 a month -- but that means city taxpayers would have to pick up part of the difference: an estimated $160,000 annually.

"So, $100 pass in this lot, $70 in other lots -- that is still going to be a stretch for the workers," Welsh said.

Mayor Dan Gelber said this issue is something the employers should be addressing, not the city.

"The hotel needs to step up the employer needs to step up and help these employees," he said.

In a recent commission meeting, Gelber and Commissioner Ricky Arriola blasted the Fountainebleau, saying it should subsidize parking for employees who have to park in city lots.

"What’s going on is, you have a private entity. In this case, the hotel is asking the government and taxpayers to subsidize their operations, and I don't think that's right," Arriola said.

The vice president and general manager of the Fountainebleau said in a statement the company already offers $10 million in other benefits.

"The Fountainebleau remains steadfast in its willingness to continue to work to improve transit and commuting options in the City of Miami Beach," the statement said in part.

Meanwhile, workers parked in the middle of this controversy hope both sides find the key to an affordable agreement.

"We need them to help us," Joseph said. "We have (families) ... we have children."

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