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Lakewood City Council proposes ordinance to increase living wage to $15 for city employees

Lakewood City Council proposes ordinance to increase living wage to $15 for city employees
Posted at 4:56 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 18:50:59-04

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — President Joe Biden’s executive order increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour means next year, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will get a nice pay bump.

Lakewood City Council is hoping to do the same for its workers with a proposed ordinance to raise the living wage for municipal employees.

“It's long past time that we did this,” Dan O’Malley, Lakewood City Council president, said.

O’Malley and Councilmember-at-Large Tristan Rader co-sponsored an ordinance that would increase the living wage for city workers and contractors to $15 an hour.

“This really would impact crossing guards, security guards that we have in the city, kitchen workers that we have in our senior centers, to name a few,” O’Malley said.

Though O’Malley said most of the city’s workers are already making more than $15 an hour, he said the proposed increase would affect about 40 employees. Those employees are currently making anywhere from $12.05 to $13.36 an hour under the city’s current Fair Employment Wage.

“It's going to mean a whole lot of money for the individual who's going to be making another buck or two an hour as a result of this,” O’Malley said. “We're also talking about putting money back into our economy. I mean, I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do, but it's also the smart thing to do because it's going to lift wages for our residents.”

O’Malley said the wage increase will be indexed to inflation and will increase automatically each year depending on the consumer price index.

He also said residents should not expect a tax hike and the increase will not impact city services.

“We can afford to do this,” O’Malley said.

Daniel Shoag, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University, said the local economy likely won’t see a huge spike as a result of this wage increase, but it has other benefits.

“There's the notion in economics about efficiency wages and the idea that you don't want to be paying people the bare minimum and have them not be as invested in their job,” Shoag said. “So there may be a reason to make sure that people are well paid so that they value the job and put forth the effort.”

Farah Issa, a Lakewood resident who works in the finance industry, thinks it's a good start, but not enough.

“The average minimum wage based on cost of living today should be $20.19,” Issa said. “If you want to actually reside in Lakewood, you're probably going to need to make somewhere in the $23 to $25 range to live in our community today.”

Eventually, he wants to see the minimum wage increased for all workers -- not just ones who work for the city or the federal government.

“Any time that you can strengthen the weakest link in the economy, which is the working class, you're strengthening the entire economy,” Issa said. “I would love to see the minimum wage be at least $20. I would ask the mayor to take the leap, be the first, make the news nationally, you know, a small town in Ohio makes the minimum wage $20.19 to actually meet the minimum standards of cost of living in the United States.”

However, Issa believes the minimum wage should be no lower than $15, especially after the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program provided an additional $600 to people collecting regular unemployment.

“It's equivalent to $15 an hour over a 40-hour workweek. So right there, they're already dictating that if we're going to have a minimum amount of money or stipend for people to survive during a pandemic is $15, how can we argue for anything less,” Issa said.

Lakewood City Council is expected to vote on the wage increase ordinance on May 17.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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