An annual report card on the health of labor in Ohio suggests it’s time for some urgent care.
The State of Working Ohio 2015 from the policy research institute Policy Matters Ohio finds that from the start of the recession in 2007 until now, Ohio has lost jobs while the nation has added them.
Executive Director Amy Hanauer crunched the numbers and says it amounts to about 35 thousand fewer workers in the state. But that’s not her only concern.
“Even more problematic, our median wage actually went down last year adjusted for inflation,” she points out. “It is lower than it was in 1979. We are not seeing wage growth even though workers are contributing to our economy.”
The report finds that in 2014 Ohio’s median wage of $16.05 was 5 percent less than the national average.
And Hanauer notes there is continued income inequality. On average, the top 1 percent of households in the state earned more than $850,000 in 2012 compared to about $40,000 for those in the bottom 99 percent.
Whether through a statewide ballot measure, or on a city-by-city basis, Hanauer contends raising the minimum wage would be an easy way to give a boost to more than 1 million Ohio workers.
“It would also just begin pushing up the floor and kind of raising wages across the board,” she states. “Twelve dollars an hour by say 2021 is a very reasonable rate for Ohio to be looking at.”
Despite the bleak findings, Hanauer says there is a renewed commitment by many organizations and activists in the state to create a better economy.
“The reason that we want a high productivity economy is that we want that economy to work for all of us,” she stresses. “Ohio’s economy is not working for many of us. That’s also true about the nation as a whole but it is much worse here in Ohio. We’ve got to turn that around.”
Hanauer adds that excitement is building over solutions including raising Ohio’s minimum wage, building a stronger union base, and investing in child care and early education to support working families.