September 2008 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Ballots, Basics and Burritos

- September 20, 2008

Video, audio, and just plain print – See, hear and read about what we’ve been up to, from our director on TV discussing the economy, to our researchers in papers from Akron to Cleveland to Dayton to Ironton to the Washington Post and USA Today.

Left behind – Ohio was, in most ways that matter, left out of the national economic expansion over the past six years. As the country heads back into recession, the gains for working families, nationally and especially in Ohio, have been disappointing to say the least. This Labor Day 2008 report from Policy Matters examines what has happened to wages, equity, work, productivity and unemployment in the past year and throughout this recovery. It calls for the presidential candidates to voice a renewed commitment to prosperity, equity, sustainability, and productivity for workers in Ohio and America.

Ballot bummers –  Paid sick days is off the November ballot and payday lending is on. Naturally, yes means no on the ballot, so if you think payday lenders should be held to reasonable interest rates (like, say, not 391% APR), then vote yes to keep the legislator’s reform in place. If you missed the research we conducted that helped spur the reform, you can catch up on it here. The shenanigans that payday lenders engaged in to gather the signatures are old news, but among them were misrepresenting the provisions of the new law and paying people to sign the petition.

The public cost of low-wage jobs – Government-subsidized health insurance, food stamps, and cash assistance help many low-wage working people in Ohio pay for the basics. But they also constitute a big subsidy to some of Ohio’s most well-heeled employers who pay their workforce too little to cover their needs. A report from Policy Matters examines how public benefits are subsidizing—to the tune of over $400 million in 2007—some of Ohio’s largest employers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Meijer, Bob Evans, the Cleveland Clinic, the University Hospitals Health System, McDonald’s, and the owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. The report got picked up in dozens of Ohio papers and in USA Today.

Solving shortages –  Many Ohio employers say they have difficulty finding qualified workers. Our study takes a closer look, examining evidence of worker shortages in health care and manufacturing jobs. We conclude that improving compensation and conditions may help recruitment for entry-level occupations, but that even more important is helping employers develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy that provides meaningful career opportunities for workers.

(Out-)Breaking news – Although paid sick days is now off the ballot, workers and restaurant diners in Ohio could still use some relief. This report looks at the role paid sick days could have played in preventing a viral outbreak stemming from a Chipotle restaurant in Kent, Ohio. The signs point to infected employees as the source of the mini-epidemic, which impacted over 500 people and cost the Kent community between $130,233 and $305,337. The governor and the employers who demanded that this popular issue be taken off the ballot owe it to people who work and eat in Ohio to follow through on their commitment to seek a legislative solution.

Report card – Our 2007 annual report is now available online! Follow the link to boost your Policy Matters IQ.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team 

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