A new report makes the case that Ohio workers deserve a higher minimum wage.
According to Policy Matters Ohio, nearly 30% of Ohio's workforce — or 1.5 million people — would benefit from raising the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. Ohio's current minimum wage is $8.80 an hour.
Michael Shields, a researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, said people working on the front lines of the pandemic stand to benefit the most.
"Grocery-store clerks, who keep the shelves stocked. Direct-care workers, who take the risk on themselves to care for our loved ones during the pandemic. Child-care workers, caring for our kids so we can go to work," he said. "We've all benefited from the work of folks who are doing these jobs, and we've got to start valuing that work by paying a living wage."
Ohio's minimum wage was tied to inflation in 2006, but Shields explained that it never made up for the value lost as productivity has risen in the previous three decades. According to the report, minimum-wage workers today can purchase 28% less than they could have in 1968, when Ohio's minimum wage was at peak value.
Many arguments against raising the wage to $15 have said it would hurt small businesses. However, Holly Sklar, chief executive of Businesses for a Fair Minimum Wage, disputed that claim.
"Raising the minimum wage saves businesses money in lower turnover, reduced hiring and training costs, less product waste and lower error and accident rates," she said. "Businesses also benefit from better productivity, a better product quality and better customer service."
Shields added that increasing the minimum wage also would help address racial pay inequality.
"Black Ohioans have faced barriers to fair pay, from neighborhoods that remain segregated to outright discrimination; 44% of Black working Ohioans would benefit from a $15 minimum wage in Ohio by 2026," he said. "That's along with a quarter of white workers as well."
The report showed that a full-time worker in Ohio who is paid the current minimum wage falls roughly $3,600 short of the federal poverty guideline for a family of three.