Constitutional Amendment Would Increase Ohio’s Minimum Wage by 50%

Ohio’s two largest public labor unions seek to bypass Ohio’s legislature to set the state’s minimum wage. The proposed amendment was filed with the Attorney General’s office on Friday and would dramatically increase the Buckeye State’s minimum wage while also mandating annual increases.

The amendment would increase Ohio’s minimum wage starting in 2021 to $9.60 per hour – a 10% increase from the 2020 minimum wage of $8.70 per hour. Then for the next four years the rate would escalate 85 cents each year – a rate that far exceeds inflation or cost of living adjustments – until it reaches $13 per hour in 2025. After 2025, the minimum wage is tied to the consumer price index and will go up annually every January.

This proposal mirrors another ballot initiative that labor groups put before voters in 2006 that indexed the minimum wage to inflation. At the time, labor groups said tying the minimum wage to inflation would guarantee the minimum wage kept pace with the rising costs of living. The voters approved the amendment in 2006, so for more than a dozen years Ohio’s minimum wage has already been increased every year at the same rate as inflation.

Yet labor groups are coming back with a new proposal to raise the minimum wage to a level far exceeding inflation and will undoubtedly seek to raise the minimum wage even higher in the future regardless of the outcome of this current amendment.

According to media reports, the two labor unions behind this ballot proposal are the Service Employees International Union District 1199 and the Ohio Education Association. The unions also believe national groups will fund their campaign to enact the amendment if it qualifies for the ballot.

At a time when there are more open jobs than workers to fill the positions, this proposed amendment does nothing to upskill workers to assure they have the training and education that will land them a job paying well above the minimum wage.

This proposed amendment also ignores the fact that the free market is currently addressing wage issues in our state. Numerous companies ranging from the largest employers to locally owned businesses have independently chosen to raise their minimum wage over the last several years. These employers did not need a law to provide a higher wage, but instead chose to raise their wage to attract and retain talented workers. 

The Ohio Chamber believes the market will continue to raise Ohioans’ wages which makes artificial increases as proposed by this new amendment unnecessary.

The proposed $13 minimum wage is far from taking effect, however. In Ohio, once a constitutional amendment and its summary are delivered to the attorney general’s office, the attorney general has 10 days to certify the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment. After certification by the attorney general, the Ohio Ballot Board has 10 days to certify that the amendment contains only one proposed amendment and return the amendment to the attorney general.

The attorney general then files a copy of the amendment with the secretary of state and proponents of the amendment can begin gathering signatures. In order to qualify for the ballot, the proponents must collect enough signatures to equal 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election – currently 442,958 signatures – and they must obtain signatures in 44 counties. Additionally, in those 44 counties they must gather at least enough signatures to equal 5% of the total votes cast in the county at the last gubernatorial election.

The proponents of this new amendment have signaled they want to put the amendment on the ballot in 2020, so the Ohio Chamber will continue monitoring the progress of the proposed amendment to keep our members up to date about this potentially damaging proposal.