Policy Could Raise Minimum Wage

The Lantern - Ohio State University - February 5, 2005

The Lantern – Ohio State University

by Brian Carro

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke in Columbus last Thursday to bolster support for an increase in the Ohio minimum wage.

His visit to the King Arts Complex was the last of a four-state campaign by Edwards to promote the issue nationwide.

According to Edwards, minimum wage in Ohio is currently set at $5.15 per hour, meaning a full-time worker will only make about $11,000 per year. He said that this year, the federal poverty line for a family of three is $16,090 per year.

“$5.15 as a federal minimum wage is a national embarrassment,” Edwards said. “This is not about the government giving people money. This is about people earning a decent wage.”

Ohio Democrats are pushing for an increase to $7.15 an hour, which according to a new study entitled, “Policy Matters Ohio”, would affect nearly half a million Ohio employees.

Edwards also said an increase in the minimum wage will help college students and their families, because many students who work to help pay their way through school are working for minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage will have a very direct impact particularly for young people,” Edwards said. “It will help students who are paying their way through school to not incur so much debt.”

Ohio House Democratic leader Chris Redfern also spoke at the rally, calling for a “broad coalition” of Ohio organizations to support the issue.

“Today, more Ohioans than ever live in poverty, including one in five children,” Redfern said.

“By raising the minimum wage, we can fulfill our moral obligation to reduce poverty and lift people up instead of leaving them behind.”

Redfern also said that he will work with Senate Minority leader C.J. Prentiss, who has introduced legislation on the issue in the Ohio Senate.

According to Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio is one of only two states that sets its state minimum wage below the federal level, although most minimum wage workers in Ohio are paid at the federal minimum wage. The federal government has not raised the minimum wage since 1997.

More than 60 percent of minimum wage earners in Ohio are women, more than 70 percent are 20 or older, more than 75 percent work at least 20 hours a week, and about 35 percent work full-time, according to Policy Matters Ohio.

“If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be nearly $8 an hour today,” Prentiss said.

Thursday’s event was sponsored by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform
Now, the nation’s largest community organizer of low and moderate income families with over 175,000 members, according to its Web site.

“Eradicating poverty, not just raising the minimum wage, can become a cause of this generation,” Edwards said.

“No American should work full-time and live in poverty.”

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