Economy

Ohio Senate Republicans Attempt To Gut State Minimum Wage Law

Ohio is one of 17 states that require workers to be paid above the minimum wage mandated by federal law. But Ohio Senate Republicans are working to limit the number of people eligible to earn that wage, attaching an amendment to an omnibus budget bill that would circumvent the law and prevent an untold number of workers from collecting the state-mandated minimum wage.

In 2006, Ohio voters approved an amendment to the state constitution setting the state’s minimum wage at $6.85 an hour with a built-in increase attached to inflation each year. The current minimum wage in Ohio increased to $7.40 an hour this year, $0.15 higher than the $7.25 an hour required by federal law.

The amendment by state Senate Republicans would reduce the number of workers eligible for the state minimum wage, making only those covered by the looser federal law eligible to earn Ohio’s minimum wage:

(Image courtesy of Plunderbund)

The Legislative Service Commission, which evaluates legislation in Ohio, said the amendment “may result in fewer individuals subject to the minimum wage.”

As Plunderbund notes, Ohio Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich (R), are already facing the remarkable unpopularity of Senate Bill 5, which rolls back collective bargaining rights for public employees, including police officers and firefighters. Now they have chosen to further their attacks on workers by targeting a law that was approved by voters in a referendum just five years ago.

But the attack on minimum wage laws is hardly unique to Ohio.

Since it became law, Republican lawmakers have waged various attacks on federal minimum wage legislation, falsely attacking it as a burden on small businesses and saying it stunts job creation, despite a lack of evidence on back up those claims. One of the Senate’s biggest critics of the minimum wage was former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who is currently contemplating a run for president. And in 2007, Senate Republicans demanded that any increase in the minimum wage be accompanied by a tax cut for small businesses. They were successful, and increased the minimum wage to its current amount of $7.25 by offsetting the increase with $4.8 billion in small business tax breaks

Other conservatives have included the minimum wage among the many federal programs they view as unconstitutional overreaches into state’s rights, similar to federal child labor laws and federal safety standards.

Meanwhile, a recent study from Michigan showed that a worker making the minimum wage does not earn enough each week to support him or herself. According to the report, in Michigan, where the minimum wage is also $7.40, a single worker with no children would need to make more than $12 an hour to cover basic food, shelter, clothing, and transportation costs. A single mother with two children, meanwhile, would need to make $24.49 an hour — more than three times the minimum wage — to support herself and her family.

UPDATE

The original version of this post reported that 17 states had laws mandating a minimum wage higher than the federally-mandated minimum wage, per the statistics available on the Labor Department’s web site. On June 1, Florida raised its minimum wage from $7.25 to $7.31 an hour, moving it above the federal minimum wage and making it the 18th state to mandate a minimum wage higher than the federal wage. (H/T The National Employment Law Project)

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