Minimum Wage Rate in Cleveland

As published in the Plain Dealer on 6/7/17

A Franklin County judge blew the whistle last week on a brazen breach by the General Assembly of a constitutional rule that ”no bill shall contain more than one subject.” That’s commendable. But his ruling reopens the door to another irresponsible push for a $15-per-hour citywide minimum wage in Cleveland. Ohio’s current statewide minimum is $8.15 per hour. The Ohio General Assembly must move quickly to reinforce through separate legislation that local increases in the minimum wage are constitutionally barred in Ohio.

Making employers pay a higher minimum wage inside Cleveland — or within any other locality in the state — would not just be wrong and economically destructive. It also would abrogate the clear intent of the Ohio Constitution’s language setting a uniform minimum wage in the state. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said as much in an advisory opinion last year.

The logical consequence of a double-digit percentage increase in the minimum wage just within Cleveland’s 82.5 square miles — where unemployment was 7.2 percent in April — would be to drive jobs into the other 44,740 square miles of Ohio. Statewide, April joblessness was 4.4 percent — 5.6 percent in Cuyahoga County.

That’s the last outcome anyone should want.

Little wonder that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council and the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor all opposed last year’s push by the Service Employees International Union, through a group named Raise Up Cleveland, to set a $15 minimum wage! inside Cleveland.

Substitute Senate Bill 331 began life in May 2016 as a measure ”to regulate dog sales and license pet stores.”

Besides adding the minimum-wage ban at Cleveland’s request, legislators slathered onto the bill such unrelated amendments as limits on Ohio cities’ and villages’ power to regulate where phone companies place ”micro cellular” equipment. The cellular amendment led scores of Ohio’s municipalities to sue.

In spiking all but the animal-welfare sections of SB 331, Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye made the right call. Still, his ruling reopens a Cleveland minimum wage debate that facts and logic long ago refuted. Lawmakers now must shut the door.

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