Miami, Fla.—All street vendors from Hialeah want is to earn an honest living, sell flowers and other goods, and provide for their families. But street vendors across the city are reporting that government officials are now engaged in what has become an annual tradition designed to stifle the entrepreneurs’ dreams: Law enforcement officers are cracking down on street vendors so they can’t capitalize on the holiday, ordering licensed vendors off the street, resulting not just in the loss of the vendors’ chance to earn a living today but in the loss of thousands of dollars in fresh flowers the vendors had hoped would satisfy their customers.
Why is the government doing this? Merely to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition—hardly a proper use of government power. That is, in fact, a violation of the constitutional rights of street vendors as enshrined in the Florida and U.S. constitutions, which is why the Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit against the city seeking to free the vendors and protect their right to economic liberty.
Under the Florida Constitution, vendors, like all other citizens, have a constitutional right to earn an honest living without unreasonable government interference. The government cannot arbitrarily use its power to protect politically powerful private businesses—such as brick-and-mortar stores—from competition. Yet that is exactly what the city of Hialeah is doing with its vending laws and with this Valentine’s Day crackdown.