May 15, 2024 - News

Ohio restaurant leaders oppose raising minimum wage to $15 an hour

an illustration of a 100 dollar bill on a fork

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Restaurant waitstaff are about to find themselves at the center of a major political fight over Ohio's minimum wage.

Why it matters: With a median wage of $13.79 per hour, food prep and serving jobs are the lowest-paid category of employment in the state, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Driving the news: A ballot initiative aimed at raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour has sparked a surprise counter proposal from the GOP that also calls for a $15 minimum wage.

  • The big difference: The ballot initiative includes tipped workers, like waiters. The GOP bill, backed by the state's restaurant industry, doesn't.

Catch up fast: Raise the Wage Ohio, a political action committee, announced in 2022 that it was collecting signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

  • The proposal would raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers starting Jan. 1, 2026. Currently, the state's minimum wage is set at $10.45 for non-tipped workers and $5.25 for tipped workers. It rises gradually each year with inflation.

The latest: Last week, state Sen. Louis Blessing III, R-Colerain Twp., introduced S.B. 256, which he acknowledged was drafted in cooperation with the state restaurant industry and aimed at "fending off" the proposed constitutional amendment, per WEWS-TV.

  • In addition to limiting the minimum wage hike for tipped workers to $7.50, the bill gradually raises the wage until reaching $15 an hour in 2028 two years later than the proposed constitutional amendment.

What they're saying: The Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance has rolled out a campaign called Protect Tips Ohio that argues the proposal would ultimately reduce income earned by servers and bartenders while driving up menu prices.

The other side: Mariah Ross, who is directing the Raise the Wage Ohio campaign, countered that her organization is not suggesting eliminating tipping — only that servers be paid a minimum of $15 for every hour they work.

  • "What we want is $15 plus tips," Ross tells Axios. "In any world, $15 plus tips is more than $5.25 plus tips."

What's next: Raise the Wage Ohio has to collect over 400,000 valid signatures by early July to make the November ballot.

The big picture: Studies have reached varied conclusions on the impact of eliminating the tipped minimum wage.

  • In D.C., which began phasing it out last year, restaurant employment dropped, but the number of restaurant openings continued to grow, per Marketplace.
  • One server told the news outlet that his wages didn't increase, but his hours became more reliable because managers stopped overstaffing dining rooms.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found

Columbuspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more