House and Senate Democrats are pushing a bill that would incrementally raise Ohio’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
The proposal is all but dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, but the bill sponsors say they need to explore every path toward raising Ohio’s minimum wage from its current $8.30 an hour.
“You’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to put pressure on people,” Sen. Joe Schiavoni, a Boardman Democrat running for governor this year, said during a Tuesday news conference. “It’s about using the legislative tools we have and at the same time get people to pressure their lawmakers.”
Ohio’s minimum hourly wage is tied to changes in inflation because of a 2006 amendment to the Ohio Constitution. The rate increased Jan. 1 from $8.15 an hour to $8.30 for 2018. The minimum wage for tipped employees increased 7 cents, from $4.08 to $4.15.
Democrats plan to introduce companion bills in the House and Senate to raise the rate to $12 per hour in 2019 and increasing it by 50 cents per year until it reaches $15.
Chaundra Kidd, a nursing home employee from Cleveland, said no one working full time should earn poverty wages. A full-time minimum wage breadwinner earns $17,264. In a three-person household, that salary is about $3,500 below the federal poverty line.
“This is about paying my bills, this is about taking care of my family, this is about the dignity for the work that I do,” Kidd said.
What do opponents say?
Republicans have been reluctant to raise the minimum wage, which they argue would make Ohio less competitive with other states and cause employers to eliminate some jobs in order to pay higher wages to others. The Buckeye Institute, a conservative-leaning Ohio think tank, has pushed for removing barriers to employment such as unnecessary occupational licensing and for creating better-paying jobs.
“Typically, people don’t stay in these minimum wage jobs their whole careers,” Greg Lawson, Buckeye Institute research fellow, said in an interview. “For most folks, these are entry level positions that they don’t stay in forever.”
Lawson said a mandated wage hike would likely result in fewer jobs or businesses choosing to spend money on technology or other capital investments instead of creating new jobs. Lawson said that would prevent many young people and women from entering the workforce and gaining skills from minimum wage jobs.
Most studies on wage increases have shown they result in minimal job losses, but a University of Washington study last year found Seattle’s $15 hike in 2013 resulted in fewer hours for workers.
Ohio cities were barred in a 2016 law from enacting minimum wages higher than the state rate. Cleveland officials had asked state legislators for the law to fend off a proposed ballot measure.
What do supporters say?
Hannah Halbert, a researcher with liberal-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, said wages have not kept pace with production. Halbert said raising the minimum wage would bring the minimum wage in line with productivity and shrink the pay gap between white and black workers and men and women.
“What I find a radical notion is we live in a state where the wealthiest 1 percent earn more than 19 times the average of the bottom 99 percent combined and we’ve done very little to nothing to address that fact,” Halbert said.
Twenty-one states have increased the minimum wage since 2013 and 31 cities have enacted raises higher than their state rate.