By Nicole Hennessy
Sean Getty and John Lescher stand side by side with their backs to the counter of their Fairview Park Jersey Mike’s franchise, Lescher on a business call while Getty consults a laptop and printer, reacting to the conversation.
Two employees diligently restock the sandwich shop and clean after the daily lunch rush.
For Lescher and Getty, the 10-cent minimum wage increase, effective for all of Ohio as of the first of the year, won’t force them to raise prices or make cutbacks, as they started their employees off at a higher pay rate in the first place.
They figured, said Lescher, “you get what you pay for.”
However, they realize those are possibilities when wages rise next time and that other business owners will have to make those kinds of sacrifices this time around.
A result of a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2006 that links wages to inflation, this year’s raise comes after a 15-cent increase at the start of 2013, bringing the current minimum wage to $7.95 per hour.
The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) last year reported that between 2000 and 2010, the number of people living below the poverty line in suburban counties, which includes Cuyahoga, increased by 69.9 percent. Also highlighted was the fact that Ohio’s state poverty rate – 16.4 percent – exceeded the national rate of 15.9 percent.
Similar findings, including a widening gap between the cost of living in Ohio and median wages, despite the 2006 legislation, were compiled in the 2013 Self-Sufficiency Standard Report, which was researched by the University of Washington Center for Women’s Welfare and commissioned by the OACAA.
Phil Cole, the organization’s executive director, said that while Ohio’s minimum wage is above what the federal government requires, it’s still below the self-sufficiency level, something that legislators are starting to take a serious look at.
“People realize … well, people know that the minimum wage is not enough to help them pay for all their costs of living, and we need, as a society, to say that work is valuable and if you’re putting in 10 hours a day, that should be more than enough to pay your way in this life,” Cole said.
He also acknowledged that while the 2006 amendment paired with another wage increase puts the state in a much better position for its lowest-paid workers to achieve self-sufficiency, there’s a long way to go before that is possible.
With this year’s 10-cent increase, an employee working 40 hours per week only gains an extra $4 before taxes, so it is hard to argue that this contributes to a higher standard of living, which, for a single adult living in Cuyahoga County, the OACAA’s report stated, would be achieved at $9.50 per hour.
While Lescher and Getty have the ability to adjust prices as they see fit even though they operate a franchise, they are not looking forward to the inevitability of doing so to keep up with what could very well be yearly wage increases.
“A lot of people, they don’t necessarily think about that. They think, ‘That would be great, it’s tough to live on … $7.50 an hour. Let’s raise that so people can make a better living,’” Getty said.
“That makes perfect sense to me. I mean, I don’t have any issue with it, but in the long run, it will impact prices, so if you vote for that increase, you (had) better be prepared to pay more.”