COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The New Year brings a new minimum wage in Ohio.
On January 1, a new state law took effect, raising the minimum wage to $9.30 an hour from $8.80. Tipped workers will now make at least $4.65 plus tips, which is a 25 cent increase from the previous $4.40 in 2021.
Some say Ohio’s restaurant workers, once commonly paid at minimum wage, may not notice a change directly linked to the increase.
“You can’t hire anyone now in a restaurant for [minimum wage]. We think the lowest we’re seeing out there now is about 12 to 13 dollars an hour,” said John Barker, the president of the Ohio Restaurant Association. “Most of the quick-serve restaurants and fast-casual restaurants, they’re starting everyone at $15. That’s kind of the new minimum right now.”
Tom Dailey, the owner of several Central Ohio Zoup! locations and the newly opened Tasty Dawg in downtown Columbus, explained he’s always paid employees above the minimum wage, but he said the increase could have an impact on the economy overall.
“I do understand the economic pressures of restaurants trying to balance doing something right for their employees economically and the economic realities of how a restaurant works,” Dailey said. “It’s a very tough balance right now.”
Dailey and many other restaurateurs are feeling the effects of unprecedented inflation, supply chain issues, and labor shortages. Some anticipate a higher minimum wage to incentivize jobs and create competition among employers.
“Because you have to stay competitive, you have to stay in line with your peers,” said Barker. “You have to look at who’s within the two to three miles around your restaurant.”
Some believe a higher minimum wage may empower low-wage workers to pump money back into the economy. At the same time, others say it could also affect inflation.
“When the minimum wage moves up, it does move with the CPI,” Barker said, referring to the consumer price index which tracks the change in prices over time. “That makes sense from the standpoint of trying to keep everyone in line with the economic movement.”
Dailey said employees are an investment and retaining them is key to surviving many of the other challenges on the horizon.
“Wages are a very, very important part of what makes an employee want to work with you. But equally – respect and a positive work environment are also very, very important,” he said. “We try to focus on the things we can control, which is a very positive work environment and supporting our employees. And we deal with the other things that come along as they come along.”
The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour.