WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s been more than 12 years since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

What You Need To Know

  • Congress remains divided over whether to increase the federal minimum wage

  • Minimum wage advocates say less than $15/hour is unlivable

  • Ohio small business owners worry too high an increase will hurt their bottom line

  • Any vote to increase in Congress will require Republican support

Ohio’s is slightly higher — $8.80 — but still far from the $15 per hour many activists are pushing for.

The left-leaning group Policy Matters Ohio said in a 2019 report that $15 per hour “would raise wages for about 2 million Ohio workers.” 

But not all Ohioans support an increase.

“Minimum wage is really supposed to be a training wage, not a lifetime wage,” Al Macre, an accountant who also owns a hair salon in Steubenville, told Spectrum News.

At the salon, a few of Macre’s employees get paid minimum wage, like the receptionists, while the stylists make more.

Macre said an increase to $15 would create a ripple effect that would upend his small business because the stylists would rightfully want to be paid more.

“That person isn’t going to be satisfied making the same $15 that the new person that I just hired with no experience is going to make,” Macre said in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “So a minimum wage isn’t just going to increase the wages of minimum wage earners, it’s going to increase the wages of everybody in the establishment.”

The right-leaning Buckeye Institute said in an analysis in March that “nearly 116,000 Ohio workers would lose their jobs” if the increase happened because business owners would have to adjust.

Spectrum News reached out to multiple unions and worker organizations throughout Ohio and asked to speak with a minimum wage worker who supports an increase, but didn’t receive calls back by the time this story was published.

In Washington, Democrats largely support raising the minimum wage while Republicans don’t.

House Democrats tried to include it in the recently-passed American Rescue Plan, but it got taken out when the bill went to the U.S. Senate.

Now, Democrats are pursuing a standalone bill, but they would need Republican support in the Senate to make it law.

Northeast Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D, OH-13) calls raising the minimum wage a moral issue.

He thinks it should be done gradually to help businesses adapt.

“Everyone says ‘hey people need to go get a job.’ Yeah, they need a job, but they need a job that pays,” Ryan told Spectrum News in a recent interview. “And so if you’re working for $15 an hour and we can help these businesses transition into it, then these people will go to work and they’ll get a job that they can actually make ends meet.”

But Cincinnati-area Rep. Steve Chabot (R, OH-1), a former leader of the House Small Business Committee, feels Congress should not be telling business owners across the country what wage makes sense for them.

“I think $15 is too much and I also think it ought not to be handled here in Washington at the federal level,” Chabot told Spectrum News in a recent interview. “All the states are different. I think it ought to be done at the state level.”