When the Republicans that control the state recently raised Ohio’s minimum wage to match the federal rate of $5.15, there was little cause for rejoicing. The federal minimum wage has not been increased since September 1997. Five fifteen an hour comes out to $10,700 annually, to support oneself or family. There’s a statewide initiative that I support that will raise Ohio’s minimum wage to $6.85 and increase the income of one in seven Ohio workers. An estimated 297,000 workers in Ohio make less than $6.85 an hour, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Another 423,000 people would be affected by a “spillover” effect that would cause their slightly-above minimum wages, but less than living wages, to rise. In all, an estimated 730,000 workers, 58% of them women, would benefit from higher wages if the $6.85 an hour initiative goes through.
Not only should the initiative go through, but I propose if I am governor, to tie minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation. It is the poor and the working poor who are hit the hardest by the highly inflationary fuel prices. Moreover, I will instruct Ohio state agencies to only contract with companies that pay a livable wage. Even at $6.85 an hour, workers would only be paid $14,248 a year, which is still 14% below the federal poverty level. All public jobs in Ohio should be paying at least $10 an hour. When we make the state more livable for the least of our brethren, we make the state more livable for all people.