COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio Ballot Board certified on Monday proposed language for a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage Monday morning. The initiative is being led by One Fair Wage.
“When workers are working in a place that they feel they are respected and treated as professionals and given an equitable wage, then they stay with the business longer,” co-organizing director of One Fair Wage Maricela Gutierrez said.
The proposed constitutional amendment would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, (https://www.ohiosos.gov/globalassets/ballotboard/2023/rasie-the-wage-ohio—petition-third-submission.pdf) but the proposal is already garnering pushback.
“To push this $15 an hour which is outrageous and so out of touch,” small business attorney and owner Mehek Cooke said. “It’s truly going to devastate the economy.”
“Ohioans are so ready for $15, past ready for $15,” Gutierrez said. “Not only are workers saying it. but also if you look at the cost to live in Ohio, it’s already over $15 and that’s if you don’t have any dependents.”
Opponents said the market should drive what employers are paying employees, considering things like inflation. Cooke said this mandate could encourage unlawful behavior.
“You’re going to drive this underhanded market where people are not going to want to follow the law,” Cooke said. “Some may say I am going to pay you under the table if you want to work here. So, this is not what we should be advancing, this isn’t appropriate, mandates never work.”
The amendment would also account for inflation by adjusting wage increases each year after it becomes $15 an hour. The state currently does increase minimum wage based on inflation numbers.
President and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association John Barker said this will have a negative effect for both employers and employees.
“We want people to make more money but at the same time, we want these businesses to survive or there won’t be any businesses to work for,” Barker said. “It’s a pretty tight lane we’re trying to work right now.”
Barker said, “As we have talked to servers around the state, none of them want this ballot thing to go through,” because he said they are worried about things like their tip wage.
“It is a fair wage plus your tips on top,” Gutierrez said. “And you get to keep all of your tips and not have it used to subsidize poverty wages.”
But Barker said the amendment is simply not necessary; he said cooks are already making more than $20 an hour and servers in Ohio average $27 an hour.
“The only people I know making close to minimum wage are high school kids, people that literally have not one second of experience,” Barker said.
Now, the group behind the initiative must collect nearly half a million valid signatures throughout the state before their proposal is able to appear on the ballot in November 2024.