Anyone who works their tail off every day shouldn’t be poor, right?
That’s the idea anyway behind Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s plan to raise the “living wage” for city employees.
It’s a good plan and deserves passage by City Council.
But notice we didn’t say “minimum wage.”
No full-time city employee actually makes so little as the minimum wage, which in Ohio is $8.10 an hour. For city workers, the minimum, or “living wage” as its called inside City Hall, is going up to $11.73 an hour in April, thanks to a 2002 city law that awards annual raises based on the increases in the cost of living. (It’s $13.23 an hour for those who don’t opt for health care benefits.)
So, the mayor’s plan announced Tuesday would not result in a widespread pay raise for city workers, and will affect only nine full-time city employees, City Hall says.
Part-time and Seasonal Workers
The larger impact will come with part-time and seasonal employees, many of them in the parks department. Many of them make around the state minimum. The part-timers would see their minimum pay rise to $10.10 an hour. That would affect 1,158 part-time and seasonal workers, the mayor’s office says.
The total cost of the plan is estimated at about $500,000. Out of a budget of $375 million, that’s a minuscule amount.
This plan wouldn't be a drain on the city budget. And it wouldn't be a windfall to city workers, either. The plan is largely symbolic, and as with any symbol, it’s a good example for others, like private employers, to look up to.
Stuck in Neutral
Wages have been stuck in neutral for years for many workers, especially since the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Lots of workers have seen their pay essentially frozen, or cut, in recent years.
City of Cincinnati employees are actually lucky to have their incomes protected with guaranteed cost-of-living increases. Most workers in the private sector have no such protection.
Unlike other states where city governments have mandated pay increases for private sector workers, that can’t legally happen in Ohio. By law, cities can’t require private businesses to raise their wages. What they can do is provide a good example by paying their own workers a living wage.
That’s the value of this plan.
It deserves support.
And businesses should take note. Because anybody who works their tail off every day shouldn’t have to be poor.