CINCINNATI — Just five short months ago, Andrew Schlanser opened Good Plates Eatery, a restaurant in Cincinnati. He says starting a business during the pandemic had its challenges, but hiring wasn’t one of them.
“I think just something new coming to the area and the amount of students in the area,” Schlanser said. “I was probably getting about 10 applications a day. Once we kind of put it out there that we’re hiring we had a (lot) of interest.”
Schlanser’s business was one of the thousands of small businesses across Ohio possibly impacted by the 2021 minimum wage increase.
The minimum wage for non-tipped workers rose from $8.70 an hour to $8.80 an hour. The minimum wage for tipped workers rose from $4.35 to $4.40.
“If you’re going to work 40 hours a week after taxes you’re taking home a grand, if that, or somewhere around that range,” he said. “That just isn’t enough for the cost of housing.”
Policy Matters Ohio Researcher Michael Shields agreed.
In his research, he found frontline workers are paid the lowest.
“The minimum wage is too low,” Shields said. “We know that and it does not reflect the value of work. One thing this pandemic has done is to just really underscore just how valuable this work is and how much we depend on these folks.”
Shields said the minimum wage is based on an index to inflation, which means the minimum wage is directly connected to overall consumer pricing.
“The highest minimum wage we’ve ever had on record was passed back in 1968 by Congress,” he said. “It was the federal minimum wage which Ohio is subject to for most workers. Had Congress at that time did an index like what Ohio has since done, the minimum would be worth more than 12 dollars an hour.”
Audrey Treasure, the Cincinnati Regional Chamber Workforce Innovation Center Vice President, agrees minimum wage should be higher but thinks business owners can do their part to help.
“We don’t have a recommendation for an ideal minimum wage,” Treasure said. “We believe that companies know their business best. They know what they need in terms of their talent and what we have found with many companies is that they’ve realized that they need to raise their wages on their own in order to get and keep the talent that they have.”
And raising wages is exactly what Schlanser has done.
He added about an extra $3 an hour to his employees' wages.
“I wouldn’t expect anyone to come in and work hard for that amount of money so it’s more or less just trying to have the loyalty of paying someone enough money so that they can live,” Schlanser said.