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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Lucas County officials to urge action raising minimum pay

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mike Gill works hard for his money: The 23-year-old Toledoan works 40 hours per week at a local fast-food restaurant and takes home less than $250 each week.

“It’s hard out here,” Mr. Gill said. “It’s barely enough to scrape by — pay rent, bills, gas, and a little bit of groceries. It gets frustrating. You feel like you should be making more.”

Lucas County commissioners agree. The commission is expected to pass a resolution today urging the Ohio legislature to pass House Bill 502 and urge the U.S. Senate to take action to raise the minimum wage, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken announced during a news conference Monday morning at One Government Center.

Toledo City Council will discuss a similar resolution today and likely will approve it during an April 8 meeting, Councilman Lindsay Webb said.

“It’s time for people to wake up and act,” Mr. Gerken said. “It’s an issue that’s real and affects people every day.”

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, nearly 50 percent of all African-Americans, 41 percent of Latinos, and 21 percent of Caucasians in Lucas County live below the poverty level. Ms. Webb said that’s proof it’s past time for the minimum wage to be increased to $10.10 per hour, so people can make a living wage.

Leo Gooden, 23, of Toledo said he worked in fast food for eight years and found it impossible to get ahead financially. He recently began working at a local hospital, where he’s paid $8.55 per hour — weekly take-home pay of $305 — to deliver trays and other comfort items to patient rooms.

He “definitely” supports a minimum-wage increase.

“You work so hard every day, and they pay you like you’re not worth anything,” Mr. Gooden said.

Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Project, said farm workers also should benefit from the bill.

“No one can argue that our migrant farm workers are hard-working people and deserve fair pay,” Mr. Velasquez said. “We need to set a minimum-wage safety net in this country.”

Commissioners Gerken, Carol Contrada, and Tina Skeldon Wozniak said raising the minimum wage would help nearly 1 million Ohioans and give workers more money to spend on the basics they need.

Ms. Webb said employers won’t be hurt by the wage increase because higher wages would give people more money to spend, which will improve “the overall community.”

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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