BY: SUSAN TEBBEN – Ohio Capital Journal
New pressure for a $15 minimum wage has been introduced into the Ohio House, attempting to accelerate progress on a constitutional amendment passed nearly two decades ago.
Democratic State Representatives Dontavius Jarrells and Brigid Kelly said their new bill not only addresses criticism of the rapid implementation of a minimum wage increase, but also makes a difference for Ohios in difficulty.
“We’ve heard the concerns of our colleagues and have extended the track of increases,” Kelly told the House Commerce and Labor Committee. “But the longer we wait to act, the less impact that action will have.”
House Bill 69 would phase in those increases to $15 an hour by 2027.
Since the bill never received a hearing after it was originally tabled in February 2021, an amendment would be needed to change the wording, which set the first increase for January 1, 2022.
The sponsors pointed to a constitutional amendment passed in 2006 that increased the minimum wage in Ohio each year with the rate of inflation. With inflation at the highest level since the Reagan administration, the minimum wage starting in January 2023 will be $10.10 per hour and $5.05 for tipped employees.
“The bottom line is this: When people have more money in their pockets, they spend it, and they spend it in businesses and communities all across Ohio,” Kelly said.
Jarrells said he gets calls to his office often talking about the tough decisions Ohio families make, like putting food on the table instead of needed medicine, because affording both isn’t an option.
“When we think about the impact of not thinking critically about how we make sure the salary or wages match our productivity, there are families that just go without,” Jarrells said. .
The debate in the committee centered on whether adding more money would solve the problems of getting people back into the workforce.
State Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, argued that some companies are offering more than $15 an hour, or at least increasing their pay, and still not being able to hire more. employees. He said the problem was manpower, not pay.
“We can sit here and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and people are going to want $20,” Jones said.
He used the example of a McDonald’s offering $13 an hour, but did not specify whether it was a full-time or part-time job.
Kelly said while restaurant and retail workers are among those struggling to pay their bills due to low wages or low hours, the problem extends to other categories of workers. , such as home health services. She and Jarrells agreed that while they see pay as a problem to be solved on its own, there’s no reason not to work on both pay and labor.
“We can think about what we would like our aspirations to be true, or we can think about what people are going through right now, which is a lot of time for multiple part-time jobs, no benefits, transportation issues, housing security issues, and also working with government agencies to secure benefits that are not necessarily aligned with each other,” Kelly said.
The bill is accompanied by a proposed ballot initiative, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2028.
But if neither the bill — which faces a Republican supermajority and a fast-paced schedule with the General Assembly slated to end Dec. 31 — nor the ballot initiative succeed, that doesn’t mean other measures Legislation is not on the horizon. Kelly said she was confident that Jarrells would continue her efforts at the next General Assembly.
“We can continue to ignore it at our peril, but the people of Ohio deserve better, they won and deserve a raise,” Kelly said.
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture . She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.
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