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In-Depth: Does Ohio need to work toward raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour?

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Posted at 9:42 PM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 07:27:03-04

CLEVELAND — Is now the time for Ohio to start working toward raising its minimum wage from $8.80 to $15 an hour? A new report from Policy Matters Ohio indicates it needs to happen over the next five years.

The new 24-page report issued by Policy Matters Ohio researcher Michael Shields outlines how incrementally moving to $15-an-hour would benefit nearly 1.6 million Ohioans, and would inject $4.9 billion in annual earnings into Ohio.

“If the policy also extended equal treatment to tipped workers, whose employers are allowed to pay them just half the minimum wage at $4.40, then the benefits raise by another 1.2 billion, to 6.1 billion in benefits for Ohio," Shields said.

“Many of the folks who are doing critical infrastructure jobs we all depend on are paid very low wages, wages that don’t reflect the value of that work.”

“We’re talking about grocery store clerks who keep the shelves stocked, were talking about direct care workers, who take the risk themselves to care for our loved ones during the pandemic."

“44% of black Ohioans would benefit from this policy, and three in five Ohioans who would benefit are women, more than 950,000 women.”

“Women are paid just 86 cents on the dollar compared with men, that gap had been narrowing, we’re now starting to see signs that the progress is faltering. Women have been hit harder by COVID-19."

Angelique Patton of Cleveland is also calling for a minimum wage increase and knows the struggle firsthand.

“Day in and day out it was a real grind," Patton said. “You got to get out there, and you got to beat it up 12 to 13 hours a day, and that takes a lot out of you.”

“How can you expect anyone to sustain themselves with $8.80, my question to them is can you sustain your family with $8.80?”

“We have a whole city of people who are struggling, they were struggling before COVID-19 came in. We really need to help people out and take their lives into consideration.”

Cleveland city council voted down an increase to $15 an hour in 2016, but Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek said there were some good reasons why.

"For just the City of Cleveland to do it, to go to $15 automatically, would have been disastrous," Polensek said. "It would have killed small businesses.”

“I’m for raising it, but it’s got to be done on the state level, there has to be a comprehensive statewide plan.”

Shields pointed to two bills that are currently in front of the Ohio legislature in Columbus, one in the Senate, the other in the House.

"Policymakers have put forward several initiatives to raise the Ohio and U.S. minimum wage to $15 per hour," Shields said.

"Ohio Senators Cecil Thomas and Hearcel Craig introduced legislation in February 2021 that would raise Ohio’s wage to $15 by 2025. Reps. Brigid Kelly and Dontavius Jarrells introduced a similar bill in the Ohio House that would implement $15 on a slightly longer time-frame by 2027."

Florida passed a similar measure in Nov. 2020, raising its minimum wage to $15 by Sept. 30, 2026.

To read the report, click here.