Free the Vendors: Hialeah, Florida Attacks Mobile Vendors
In October 2011, the newly created Institute for Justice Florida Chapter filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of street vendors. These vendors are challenging a law passed by the city of Hialeah, Fla. (located near Miami), that not only makes vendors’ work more dangerous by forcing them to constantly be on the move rather than vend in one location, but also is purposefully anticompetitive—making it impossible for vendors to compete against politically powerful brick-and-mortar businesses. The heart of the Institute for Justice’s challenge is that, under the state of Florida’s constitution, the government must protect the rights of individuals to pursue an honest living free from unnecessary and arbitrary government-imposed restrictions. Likewise, it is not the government’s place to put in place anticompetitive restrictions that arbitrarily protect one business while harming another. Street vendors are a core part of the American Dream. Whether it is selling newspapers in New York City or hot dogs in Chicago or cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, the image of a hard-working street vendor climbing his way up the economic ladder is familiar to Americans from coast to coast. Vending provides a perfect means of entering the economic mainstream, especially for the poor and newcomers to our nation, because vending doesn’t require a great deal of financial capital or formal education; it merely requires a dream for a better life and hard work. Unfortunately, local governments are making it all but impossible for street vendors to earn an honest living. That is what is happening in Hialeah. Although street vending is legal in Hialeah, city laws designed to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition make it illegal to be an effective street vendor. In an effort to fight these anticompetitive laws, local vendors are teaming up with the Institute for Justice’s new Florida chapter to stand up for their economic liberty.
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