Local advocates of raising the federal minimum wage brought their bus tour to Toledo on Tuesday to press Congress to pass a three-year increase to $10.10 per hour.
Several local speakers, including two South Toledo business owners, advocated for the rise as the way to help people out of poverty and motivate workers, and to spin off and benefit the economy. A 45-foot-long bus bearing a giant billboard was parked in the private Teamsters Local 20 parking lot off the Anthony Wayne Trail to call attention to the campaign.
Dave Schultz, president of Keystone Press Inc. on Broadway, said his family business has 10 employees and all are paid more than the minimum wage.
“If they’re worried about how they’re going to pay for groceries, what they’re going to do for health care, they’re not going to give you a good day’s work. If you pay them a fair wage, they’re going to give you 100 percent, sometimes 150 percent,” Mr. Schultz said.
The Rev. Cedric Brock, head of the Toledo Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, led more than 20 supporters in the caravan in a chant of “Raise the Wage.”
“We are a society that values work and values mobility,” Mr. Brock said. “We are a country that puts great pride in the fact that in America if you work you will get ahead. That’s not the case anymore. Seven-twenty-five is not enough. We need to raise the wage to $10.10.”
He called the federal minimum a moral and ethical wrong because “a huge percentage” of those earning minimum wage are women and young people, often with no other means of support. Ohio’s minimum wage is $7.95.
Jimmy Donofrio, digital director for the issue advocacy group Americans United for Change, called on his listeners to get on their smart phones and send a message to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) to vote for the higher minimum wage when it comes up for a vote today.
Mr. Donofrio said the increase would benefit 1.14 million wage-earners in Ohio with an additional $1.5 billion in pay.
Also speaking were state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), Nerd Life computer store owner Tom Brennan, and Maureen Wilcheck, a Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus driver.
Parked on Hawley Street outside the union office was a mobile billboard conveying a different message: “Caution! Lost Jobs Ahead.”
Sponsored by the conservative research organization Employment Policies Institute, the billboard alluded to a Congressional Budget Office report stating that a $10.10 minimum wage would cause employers to shed 1 million jobs.
“Big Labor’s bus tour has more to do with partisan politics than with bettering America’s work force,” EPI research director Michael Saltsman said. A more modest hike could generate bipartisan support and actually pass Congress, he said.
“A recent study showed that even with Ohio’s higher minimum wage taken into account, the proposed federal minimum wage increase could kill 25,800 Ohio jobs,” Mr. Portman said in a statement issue by his office.
“In this weak economic recovery, we should be focusing on policies that help, not hurt, Ohioans who are out of work.”