Campaign on Wage Issue About More Than Just Money

Dayton Daily News - October 8, 2006
   

Dayton Daily News

By William Hershey

Columbus — Torrie Gregg of Dayton View, a single mother who’s raising five children and working for $6.25 an hour at McDonald’s, plans to vote for Issue 2 on Nov. 7, a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour.

Steve Bowser, president of Bowser-Morner Inc., engineering and testing firm in Huber Heights, plans to vote “no,” mainly because he thinks provisions in the amendment would invade his employees’ privacy and make it hard to recruit high-quality talent.

With less than a month until the election, supporters, led by organized labor and faith groups, are casting the campaign as a battle for economic fairness and justice.

Opponents, mainly business groups, are trying to shift the focus from dollars and cents to parts of the amendment that require employers to keep and, upon request, release an employee’s payroll records with information such as addresses and pay rates.

For Gregg, it’s about money.

Late in the evening while her children — the eldest 8 and the baby is 2 — sleep, she begins her weekly workout, trying to stretch her pay and juggle bills.

“I’m always behind in something. Before I even get my paycheck, the money is always gone,” said Gregg, 24, a member of ACORN, a group backing the proposal. “It’s crazy and it’s hard.”

She said she whittles bills a little at a time, often not able to pay the whole bill at once. “I always try to pay them something. It’s a struggle and it’s a headache, when you get a disconnect in the mail,” she said.

She’d welcome a 60-cent per hour raise if voters approve the amendment.

“Any little bit is better than nothing,” she said.

A study this year by Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning research group in Cleveland, concluded that an estimated 719,000 Ohio workers would benefit from the amendment. That includes 297,000 who now make less than $6.85 an hour and an additional 423,000 workers earning at least $6.85 an hour, but who would likely get modest raises as employers adjust pay scales to accommodate the new minimum.

However, a separate review of the proposal by Matthew Carr of the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Columbus, a conservative-leaning research group, concluded that raising the minimum wage would slow job growth and that the poor would be harmed the most.

“When the price of something increases, people demand less of it,” Carr wrote. “As the cost of employing low-wage workers increases, employers will hire fewer of them.”

Meanwhile, Bowser does not like the part of the amendment that provides annual increases in the minimum wage, pegged to the Consumer Price Index.

“I have a lot of concerns about putting this into the state constitution and locking in inflation adjustments every year. I have no idea what the long-term consequences of that are,” said Bowser, 54, whose firm has 150 employees, 115 in Dayton and 35 in Toledo.

His biggest concern, however, is the requirement that his company would have to make available to an employee or someone “acting on behalf of an employee” payroll records with personal information.

State Issue 2:

Ohio Fair Minimum Wage Amendment

What: A constitutional amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot to raise Ohio’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007

Secretary of State: sos.state.oh.us, click on Election Day, Nov. 7, 2006; information includes the ballot language, arguments for the issue and arguments against.

Supporters include: Dayton City Commission, Ohio Council of Churches, Let Justice Roll, NAACP Ohio, We Believe Ohio, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Ohio AFL-CIO and Ohio Democratic Party.

Opponents include: Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Englewood-Northmont Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Ohio Grocers Association, Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Ohio Restaurant Association and Ohio Society of CPAs.

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