The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA), along with the Clevelanders Against Job Loss coalition, have worked to push back a threat to Cleveland’s economy by changing the changing the date for a vote on a Cleveland-only minimum wage hike.
A May 2017 special ballot election on a wage hike takes the place of the November 8, 2016 general election. This will enable the coalition to inform Cleveland voters about the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) backing an 85% increase in the minimum wage.
The vote will be whether to accept a phase-in of a $15 minimum wage citywide, beginning with $12 an hour in January 2018.
City Council passed legislation on Monday night forwarding the issue to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and setting the date next year for the special election.
After months of debate, demonstrations and public hearings, the issue narrowly missed making the November ballot. Per the City Charter, council would have had to vote on the issue on or before last Friday – 60 days before the general election – to make the ballot. But council was not scheduled to return from summer recess until today.
Raise Up Cleveland, with the support of the SEIU, had gathered enough signatures to compel City Council to introduce legislation in May seeking a $15 minimum wage that would have begun in January.
Council voted down the proposal at its summer meeting last month, with only Councilman Jeffrey Johnson voting in support of it.
The City Charter gave the petitioners the back-up option of putting the issue on a future ballot for Cleveland voters. And the final language submitted by the group took a more tempered, phased-in approach to reaching $15 an hour that they hope will alleviate voters' concerns that an 85 percent increase all at once would harm local businesses and kill jobs.
The proposal now seeks a $12 minimum wage in Cleveland beginning in January 2018, with $1 annual raises for the following three years. After that, the minimum wage would be tied to the cost of living index. The minimum wage would remain at $8.10 an hour in the rest of the state.
The charter required council then to certify the issue to the elections board at council's next regularly scheduled meeting.
Invoking another charter provision, the petitioners had collected an additional 5,000 signatures in an attempt to force the issue onto the November ballot. But Council Clerk Pat Britt rejected the signatures, contending that she could not accept them before council had made its final decision on the matter.
Members of Raise Up Cleveland then sued City Council in the Ohio Supreme Court, accusing Britt of unlawfully refusing to accept the signatures. As of Monday, the court had not ruled on the case – and the issue did not appear on the board of elections' tentative list of issues for the upcoming ballot.
(Source: ORA and Cleveland Plain Dealer)