Ballot Issue Seeks to Raise Minimum Wage

Dayton Daily News - November 23, 2005

Dayton Daily News

by William Hershey

COLUMBUS | Supporters of a campaign to raise Ohio’s minimum wage to $6.85 an hour said they gathered 45,000 signatures on Election Day in an effort to get the proposal on Nov. 7, 2006 ballot.

“It’s a moral imperative to raise the minimum wage,” Tim Burga, legislative director of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said at a Statehouse news conference.

Burga was joined by Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss, D-Cleveland, and other representatives of Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage – a coalition of labor, faith-based, civil rights and community groups.

In Ohio, the federal minimum wage — $5.15 an hour — applies to employees of companies that engage in interstate commerce or have gross annual sales of more than $500,000.

Nearly 92,000 Ohio workers — about 1.9 percent of the state’s employees — earn less than the federal minimum wage, according to a report last April by Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based research group.

For those who don’t qualify for the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage ranges from $2.80 per hour to $4.25 per hour, based on their employers’ gross annual sales.

Only Ohio and Kansas have state minimum wages lower than the federal minimum, according to the U.S. Labor Department Web site.

The coalition has until Aug. 9 to gather signatures from 322,899 registered voters – 10 percent of the votes cast in the last governor’s race – to get the issue on the ballot. Burga said so far about 50,000 have been gathered, including the 45,000 on Nov. 8.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the state’s major business advocacy group, opposes the proposal.

“We see it as a short-term fix for a long-term problem,” said Tony Fiore, the chamber’s director of labor and human resources.

“People are paid based on their skills, not on their needs. People who lack skills or work experience needed to earn higher wages are going to be among the first people to lose their jobs when wages go up,” he said.

Under the ballot proposal, the state minimum wage would go to $6.85 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007 and after that would be annually adjusted for inflation.

Also, under the proposal, the federal minimum wage would apply to employees younger than 16 and to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of $250,000 or less.

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