Plan to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour is one step closer to a vote in Ohio
The Ohio Ballot Board has given the green light to a group that wants to put a constitutional amendment before voters next year that would raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour.
That's nearly $5 more than the state's current minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.
Corey Columbo, a Columbus attorney who represents the group Raise the Wage Ohio said this summary is similar to a proposal the Ballot Board approved last year.
"Everything contained in this petition deals with the minimum wage rate. It's all contained with amendments to the same constitutional provision so all parts contain to the general object or purpose of minimum wage," Columbo told the Ballot Board.
The board unanimously agreed. Now, it's up to those who want to raise the minimum wage to gather the nearly 414,000 valid petition signatures needed to put the issue before voters in November 2024.
Maricela Gutierrez, the co-organizing director for One Fair Wage, said there are more than a million Ohio workers who currently earn less than $15 an hour. While many Ohioans, especially those in the service industry who were hired in the post-COVID days, are earning $15 an hour now, she said there is still a need for this increase.
"Once businesses feel like 'okay, cool, there is not a labor shortage anymore, I am fully staffed,' the new people they are hiring on are being hired at lower wages," Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said passage ofthe proposed amendment, which is also being backed by the service workers union SEIU Ohio and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, will do three things.
"It gets the minimum wage to $15. It eliminates the sub-minimum wage. And it's for the 2024 ballot," Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said if voters approve a $15 minimum wage next year, the wage wouldn't increase immediately. She explained it would go to $15 an hour in for hourly employees by 2026 and by 2027 for tipped employees. Gutierrez said that would give businesses enough time to build the increased wages into their plans.
But that's not enough to win favor from major business groups. Ohio Chamber Chief Executive Officer Steve Stivers said the proposed minimum wage increase is a bad idea.
“The Ohio Chamber of Commerce believes that free-market forces result in appropriate wages for workers. Ohio already has a minimum wage which is indexed for inflation. The results of this ballot initiative will be more automation, fewer jobs and picking winners and losers; it punishes some of the very people it purports to help. The proposed minimum wage amendment to the Ohio Constitution is not only ill-advised and economically detrimental, it would also be next to impossible to correct once the unintended consequences transpire," Stivers said.
The Ohio Restaurant Association has historically opposed minimum wage increases and is also expected to fight it. The group has already said it supports a plan to increase to 60% the threshold constitutional amendments would need from voters.