Petition wording approved for campaign to raise Ohio minimum wage to $13 an hour

A 2015 job fair at the Nutter Center. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Voters may decide the issue in November if it makes the ballot.

A campaign to boost Ohio’s minimum wage to $13 an hour cleared its first hurdle Monday when Attorney General Dave Yost approved the petition wording.

The next step is to win approval from the Ohio Ballot Board. Then the group can start collecting the required 442,958 valid signatures from registered voters from across the state by July 1 to qualify for the November ballot.

Union groups are backing the  ballot issue to boost Ohio’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by Jan. 1, 2025, according to paperwork filed with the Ohio Attorney General.

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The group will need to collect valid signatures from 442,958 registered voters from across the state by July 1 to qualify for the November ballot. Anthony Caldwell of the SEIU Local 1199 said “We are all on board. We support the fastest path to the highest wage possible.”

He added that union members typically get involved in such campaigns and volunteer to circulate petitions. “We have people power.”

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said the teachers union hasn’t taken a formal position but has been involved in the proposing constitutional amendment. Polling shows support among Ohioans for a $13 an hour minimum wage, he said.

The proposed constitutional amendment calls for phasing in the increase between 2021 and 2025 and then tying increases to the rate of inflation.

“With minimum wage so low, too many parents can’t make ends meet, and too many students are forced to make do with the very basics,” DiMauro said. “When our students have economic stability at home, they can flourish at school and fulfill their full promise to become leaders, innovators, and caring members of our community.”

In 2006, Ohioans voted 56.6% to 43.3% for a constitutional amendment to bump the state minimum wage up to $6.85 an hour, up from $5.15, and tie future annual increases to the rate of inflation. The 2007 increase was the first minimum wage boost since 1996.

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The state minimum wage for non-tipped workers increased to $8.70 an hour as of Jan. 1 but that is still lower than the minimum set by 23 other states.

About 20 states match or default to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and six states, plus the District of Columbia, are phasing in a $15 an hour minimum wage. The federal minimum wage was last increased in July 2009.

Business owners are worried about the added expense if they’re compelled to pay higher wages.

Dan Young, of Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs, said a business like his employs a lot of people for their first job and a large minimum wage increase would make it more difficult to hire entry level workers.

For Young’s Dairy, labor is about 30 to 35 percent of their costs and the proposed increase would be a significant increase of labor expenses over four years, Young said. He said an increase could be hard on food service businesses.

“I read about various automations, and you go into some restaurants and they encourage you to do all of your ordering at a kiosk or use the app, and obviously all those things are designed over the long run to use a little bit less labor … If this major expense is going to go up 50 to 60% you’re going to start thinking about ‘how can I use a little less of that?’” Young said.

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“ The 2006 amendment raised the minimum wage, allowed for future minimum wage increases and it was supported by organized labor. I don’t understand why we are talking about this issue again,” said Chris Kershner, executive VP of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The business community should be consulted on these types of issues, especially since it would be directly impact employers. However, we have not been asked to participate yet.”

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