Thousands of Ohio's frontline workers make minimum wage; advocates say it needs to increase

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Posted at 2:27 PM, Jan 19, 2021

CLEVELAND — More than a million Ohioans make minimum wage — working long, hard hours often on the frontlines of this pandemic, and still, barely having enough to make ends meet.

When we entered 2021, Ohio’s minimum wage went up 10 cents — now $8.80 an hour for non-tipped workers.

“Many of Ohio’s front line workers are among the states lowest paid,” said Michael Shields, a researcher with Policy Matters Ohio.

The increase is tied to the inflation index, passed in 2006.

Shields said it isn’t a true raise in terms of buying power, but it does protect the minimum wage from losing value over time.

“Now that’s a really smart policy,” Shields said. “Had Congress done that when they set the historic minimum wage back in 1968, a long time ago, it would be more than $12 an hour today.”

With thousands of Clevelanders making minimum wage, Tanisha Head sees firsthand how the 10 cent-bump just isn’t enough.

“I see a lot of trauma in the city of Cleveland,” Head said. “People are really struggling to build a better quality of life.”

Head said people are often forced to choose between putting food on the table, paying the rent, and buying necessities for their families.

“I don’t really think that it’s fair, for Ohioans that are willing to work. It’s not like they’re not willing to work,” Head added. “There’s people that are willing to go out here and do any job and they get what they get and do the best that they can and they still end up struggling.”

And Shields said the pandemic has highlighted just how dependent we are on our low wage workers.

“Many of the workers who have been most critical in helping everybody get through this crisis are grocery store workers, food processing workers, home health care workers,” he said.

And he hopes policymakers realize, it’s time to start paying them what they’re worth.

The current federal minimum wage sits at $7.25 per hour.

President-Elect Joe Biden has voiced support for a $15 minimum wage.

He has said he hopes with a Democrat-controlled house and senate, they’ll be able to act on relief.