Workers strike for a $15 minimum wage. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
There are multiple efforts underway to raise the minimum wage for Ohio workers to $15 an hour.
The plans differ slightly on the timeline to reach that goal, but Democrats in the Ohio Statehouse, in Congress and in the White House are simultaneously pushing for an increase they say is necessary to benefit low-income Americans.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees, but states are allowed to set theirs higher.
Ohioans approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 to automatically increase the state minimum wage each January. Since then, it’s gone up about a dime per year; the most recent increase was from $8.70 per hour in 2020 to $8.80 this year.
At the Ohio Statehouse, a quartet of Democratic lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation to increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of six years. This plan calls for bumping the hourly wage to $10 on Jan. 1, 2022, then increasing it by a dollar each year to reach $15 in 2027.
In Ohio, the minimum wage for tipped employees currently stands at $4.40 per hour. That is because state law allows the tipped minimum wage to be 50% of the higher total, so long as the tips received bring their hourly wage to at least $8.80.
Under a $15 per hour minimum wage for non-tipped employees, the resulting tipped wage would be $7.50 per hour.
At the federal level, President Joe Biden supports an increase to $15 per hour and has included a minimum wage hike within his proposed coronavirus relief package.
With the relief package debate still ongoing, Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2025 — two years quicker than the Ohio plan.
States can have a higher minimum wage than the national wage, but not a smaller one. Were the federal minimum wage to go up to $15 per hour, Ohio’s would as well.
Another attempt in the state legislature
The state plan is being introduced by Reps. Brigid Kelly of Cincinnati and Dontavius Jarrells of Columbus in the Ohio House of Representatives, and Sens. Cecil Thomas of Cincinnati and Hearcel Craig of Columbus in the Ohio Senate.
Kelly proposed a similar bill during the previous legislative term. It received only one committee hearing within the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly and was never taken up for a vote.
At the January 2020 hearing, a few Republican lawmakers offered counter arguments to increasing the Ohio minimum wage. They raised concerns about potential job losses and subsequent increases in the cost of goods and services to make up for the higher wages paid by employers.
Rep. Mark Fraizer, R-Newark, noted a 2019 study from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which estimated a raise to $15 per hour by 2025 could lead to fewer jobs. The median estimate was 1.3 million Americans becoming jobless due to the increase.
The CBO study also found that a much greater number of American workers — around 17 million — would see their earnings go up with a minimum wage increase.
Rep. Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, questioned Kelly on the possibility of consumer prices increasing; of the merits of paying such a high wage to young, first-time workers; and if start-up businesses could afford to offer such starting wages to employees.
Kelly countered that Ohioans would be able to afford increased prices due to their higher wages and that most minimum wage workers are adults. As for the concerns about new businesses, Kelly said Stein’s point was “well-taken” but that a minimum wage increase was worth it to attract good workers and keep up with improved productivity.
Stein said he applauded the goal of raising the minimum wage, but is worried about the “unintended consequences,” a view that was shared at the committee by fellow GOP Rep. Don Jones of Freeport.
“I have concerns that we’re going to go too far too fast,” Jones said.
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