$15 minimum wage needed, Dems say
Ohio Democratic lawmakers are calling for a $15 statewide minimum wage by 2025, saying a “modernization” of Ohio wages is needed.
For too long, talk at the Statehouse has focused on tax cuts for businesses, expecting they will fuel the economy, said Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, a candidate for governor.
“You can’t just give people money back and just hope and pray that they invest it in their people,” he said. “There has to be a conversation about workers.”
As he travels the state, Schiavoni said, he hears people talk about wanting opportunities to raise their families and grow in the state.
“But if they can’t make a livable wage, it’s not happening,” he said. “What I’ve seen in the Senate for the last nine years is a lot of tax cutting for the highest earners in the state while everyone else gets some scraps. That doesn’t give that person a fighting chance.”
Under the proposal, the minimum wage would jump to $12 per hour in 2019 — a 45 percent increase from the current rate — then increase 50 cents per year until it reaches $15 by 2025.
Under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006, the state minimum wage rises each year by the rate of inflation. In January, that meant a 1.9 percent increase, taking it from $8.15 per hour to $8.30. For tipped workers, it rose to $4.15.
The largest increase since 2006 was 30 cents in both 2009 and 2012.
“When you’re talking about the bottom line of being able to take care of your family, 30 cents or less per year is not going to cut it,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati.
“There is more wealth in our country than ever before, but most of it is concentrated in the hands of the few, the super-rich at the top.”
A bill to accelerate the rate of increase is unlikely to get much support in the Republican-dominated legislature.
“The people of Ohio addressed that issue awhile back with a constitutional amendment, and we should honor that,” said Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, the No. 2 House leader. “We should stick with it. We wanted a formula we could follow for decades to come.”
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a rate that has not changed since 2009. That rate applies in Ohio to companies with annual gross receipts of $305,000 or less, and for 14- and 15-year-olds.
Chris Ferruso, legislative director for the NFIB/Ohio, which represents thousands of small businesses, said the group opposes artificially setting wages with “one-sizefits-all government edicts.”
Businesses pay what they can, and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would have varying impacts on different types of companies, he said.
“You can’t raise your prices, necessarily, to accommodate that,” Ferruso said. “At some point the pressure becomes too great and the customers go away. Does that mean you reduce the number of staff you have to accommodate this government mandate?”
Twelve states and the District of Columbia, which has the highest rate at $13.25, have minimum wage rates in 2018 of $10 an hour or more.
“No one who works full time in our state should live in poverty. I want a better future for my family, but I can’t do it making less than $15 per hour.”
— Chaundra Kidd, a nursing home worker in Cleveland
The highest state rate is Washington at $11.50.
Research says an increase in Ohio is overdue, said Hannah Halbert, workforce researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal research and advocacy group. The state economy has grown 65 percent in a generation, she said, but, when accounting for inflation, many workers have seen wages decline compared with the previous generation.
Seven of Ohio’s 10 most common jobs, Halbert said, have an annual median wage of less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour would give 1.8 million Ohio workers a pay raise, she said, and help reduce both gender and racial income gaps.
“It would simply restore some of the lost purchasing power, helping working families and increasing local spending,” she said.
For Chaundra Kidd, a nursing home worker in Cleveland, the increase is about paying bills and dignity for the work she does.
“No one who works full time in our state should live in poverty,” she said. “I want a better future for my family, but I can’t do it making less than $15 per hour.”