States, including Ohio, debate minimum wage

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WYTV) –  States like Ohio are taking minimum wage issues into their own hands, not waiting for action from Congress.

In Washington this week, residents and activists celebrated the District of Columbia increasing its minimum wage 75 cents to $9.50 an hour. But it’s not alone. Ohio and 12 other states raised their minimum wages in January and 34 states are considering increases.

“States have to take the initiative because they’ve waited around too long and they see their residents and their constituents, as far as the lawmakers are concerned, are suffering,” said Boaz Young-El, Legislative Representative for United Food and Commercial Workers.

Analyst Dave Cooper from the Economic Policy Institute says opponents are concerned wage hikes will be bad for businesses, raising costs and ultimately reducing the number of employees they can hire.

“The best research we have shows that modest increases in the minimum wage really have no effect on employment whatsoever,” Cooper said. “But what they do show is that these workers, after the minimum wage is raised, have a little more income, have a little more money in their pockets, they can go out and spend a little more.”

But the argument isn’t that simple. Other analysts say a minimum wage rise will hurt the people it’s intended to help.

“If we raise the price of labor for the grocery store, for the clerks and for the people that come in at night and stock the shelves at night, that forces the store to raise their prices and so when a low income person goes to the store to shop,” said Brian Williams, Legislative Director of National Center for Policy Analysis. “Now all of a sudden they’re facing increased prices.”

However, if it comes down to it, Williams says states, not Congress, should make the decisions on raising the minimum wage.

“A federal minimum wage is a one-size fits all and we have a country,” Williams said. “If you have a grocery store in Mississippi, it’s different than a grocery store in Greenwich, Connecticut. If you have federal minimum wage, it’s impossible to apply that one-size fits all to the entire country.”

Congress hasn’t changed the minimum wage since 2009, when it rose to $7.25. Ohio’s wage is automatically tied to inflation rates, but currently set at $7.95.

Nine state representatives, including Youngstown-area Democrat Bob Hagan, introduced an Ohio house bill to raise it to $10.10 by next January.

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