Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Attorney General Dave Yost has rejected a petition to let voters decide if the Ohio minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour.
Ohio increases the state minimum wage annually due to the cost of living. With inflation, that means wages starting Jan. 1, 2023 for non-tipped workers will move from $9.30 an hour to $10.10. Tipped workers will move from $4.65 to $5.05.
A living wage calculator created by MIT shows Ohio is falling behind in comparison to about half of the other states. For one adult and one child, the adequate amount of pay per hour would be more than $30, which is more than three times the state’s minimum wage.
“It’s 2022, a lot of things are very expensive now,” said Lil Lemont, a Columbus resident. “It’s expensive to live, to eat.”
Lemont and other Ohioans, like Frederick Pettey, said $10.10 an hour is not nearly high enough.
“I do feel like the minimum wage should be $15 an hour because I feel like people are working hard nowadays,” Lemont added.
Pettey agreed, stating that this should have already been done.
“It would be perfect to put that in place and maybe it will lower the crime rate,” Pettey said.
But Lemont’s dreams of a $15 minimum wage in the state aren’t coming anytime soon. Yost rejected the “Raise the Wage Ohio” amendment, stating the language was unclear.
Yost’s job is to determine if the petition language is “fair and truthful” and he was unable to do so, his response to the petition said. It is not uncommon for a petition to be rejected the first time. Getting anything on the ballot if lawmakers are not involved is very difficult in Ohio.
“During our review of the summary, we identified numerous omissions that, as a whole, would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment to the current constitutional provision,” Yost said.
There are some sections that do not have enough detail and don’t address how it would impact and change the current law.
OCJ/WEWS spoke to numerous people who don’t want the wage increased, but all declined to go on camera.
Ohioans who disagreed with $15 an hour said that raising the minimum wage just rewards people who aren’t out seeking better jobs in this competitive market, or it could encourage people to be lazy. The most common argument was focused on mom-and-pop shops.
Economist Michael Goldberg explained that small business owners have already dealt with inflation and other financial issues due to the pandemic.
“If the labor market begins to adjust and there’s more talent out there, they don’t want to be locked into paying wages above what the market will bear,” Goldberg said.
However, he says that the conversation around minimum wage isn’t as pertinent as it used to be due to the labor shortage.
“Minimum wage, in some ways, has been surpassed by the reality that employers need to pay more than the minimum wage to retain and attract workers,” he said.
Ohioan Tim Hill understood the reasoning behind small businesses being opposed, but paying your employees more could help the economy at the end of the day, he said. Putting more money into the pockets of workers will lead to more spending, he added.
“You should get paid a livelihood that you can live off of,” Hill said. “$15 an hour is great, doable. It should be raised.”
The amendment would increase the minimum wage for all workers, non-tipped and tipped, to $15 an hour by 2028. It would also remove the current exemptions stating that employees under 16 or with disabilities can be paid sub-minimum wage.
“It’s just with everything that’s going on with the COVID, everyone needs more money,” Pettey said. “It’s been a hard thing for the last two years.”
Yost’s letter encouraged the petitioners to resubmit once they clarify his questions and add additional information.
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