Advocates of Minimum Wage Increase Look to Constitution

Last week, a group took the first step in amending the Ohio constitution to raise the minimum wage through statewide ballot initiative by filing paperwork with the Ohio Attorney General. However, this is just the latest attempt in an ongoing effort to increase the minimum wage in Ohio.

The current state minimum wage is $8.10 per hour and goes up annually based upon the rate of inflation. However, there have been movements recently, both nationally and within Ohio, to further raise that amount. Late last year and earlier this year, there were protests, demonstrations and even strikes at fast food restaurants promoting a minimum wage of $15.00. In Cincinnati, there was a short-lived push for a 2015 city ballot initiative that would have raised the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 and eventually to $12.20. There was even legislation introduced earlier this year in the Ohio Senate which would raise the state minimum wage to $10.10. Though these attempts have not been successful thus far, the proponents of raising the minimum wage are seeking any and all available avenues to accomplish their goal.

The proposed constitutional amendment would initially raise the minimum wage by $1.90 per hour, effective on January 1, 2017, and then by an additional fifty cents each year until it reached $12.00 per hour in 2021. Thereafter, the minimum wage would increase based upon yearly inflation, as it does now. The overall impact of the proposal would result in a nearly 50 percent increase in the minimum wage over just five years. The amendment would also phase out the ability of employers to pay tipped employees at a rate below minimum wage. The group behind the ballot initiative is called Stand Up for Ohio, which is a coalition of labor, community, environmental, and civil rights organizations.

While those advocating for a minimum wage increase believe doing so will help cure poverty and provide a livable wage, it could actually harm the most vulnerable workers: young people, the undereducated and those lacking work experience. When employers are forced to pay higher wages, they will be less likely to continue to be able to afford to employ less-skilled and less-educated workers. A smarter approach would be to focus on the state’s workforce development and education efforts. More education and experience provide Ohioans a lifetime of increased opportunity and earning capacity when compared to arbitrarily raising the minimum wage for a short-term benefit.

Last week’s filing signifies the first step in the process to alter Ohio’s constitution. If the paperwork is approved by the Attorney General, Stand Up for Ohio can then begin gathering the 300,000 plus signatures required for the constitutional amendment to be on the ballot in 2016.