With too many Ohioans working harder than ever and barely getting by, it’s well past time to raise the minimum wage in our country. Recently, I visited four Ohio businesses that are supportive of an increase in the federal minimum wage. These businesses and their owners know that treating their employees right isn’t just good for them, it’s good for business.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law 75 years ago. This legislation ensured that American workers would receive a minimum wage and work reasonable work hours. By guaranteeing that hard work in our nation meant fair wages and decent working conditions, President Roosevelt helped lead our country out of the worst economic climates we’ve ever faced to decades of prosperity. A minimum wage helped lift millions of Americans out of poverty and into the middle class.
Our workers today work just as hard as they did when Roosevelt was president, yet our fair wage laws do not reflect that. Too many Ohio families are still struggling. Ohioans who work hard and play by the rules should be able to take care of their families.
Nearly 1.3 million Ohioans work in a minimum wage job. Working full-time in a minimum wage job in Ohio pays about $16,000 per year – which isn’t much to live on when you’re trying to put food on the table, fill your gas tank, send your children to school, and provide a safe place for them to live.
In fact, the minimum wage has lost nearly a third of its buying power since its peak in 1968. Ohio’s minimum wage of $16,000 per year is about $2,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. And while Ohio has a slightly higher minimum rate than other states, it is still too low. The minimum wage in this country should be a livable wage.
That’s why I’m fighting to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in three steps of 95 cents—then provide for automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living, as Ohio’s minimum wage already does. The bill would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in 20 years. This tipped minimum wage currently stands at just $2.13 an hour. Our bill would increase it to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
More than 30 million American workers would get a raise with our bill. The vast majority – 88 percent – are adult workers and more than half are women. Nearly a quarter of all American children – totaling 18 million – have parents who would get a raise.
But it’s not just about the families who will be directly affected. Increasing the minimum wage means more money pumped into local economies. In fact, a 2013 Economic Policy Institute report found that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, would increase GDP by nearly $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their raises in local businesses and in their communities. This economic activity could generate 140,000 new jobs over the course of three years.
Ensuring a fair wage is good for middle-class families and good for our economy. Raising the minimum wage for Ohio workers is long overdue.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.