Minimum wage increases across Ohio

Pictured is the Ohio Statehouse. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Statehouse website.

Ellie Moores | Contributing Writer

Jan. 1 ushered in a 35-cent increase for non-tipped employees, raising their hourly minimum wage to $10.45 an hour. Tipped employees saw a smaller increase at just 20 cents more, bringing their hourly minimum wage to $5.25. While the increase signifies progress, some Ohio workers are unimpressed with the change. 

People everywhere rely on minimum wage jobs to meet their basic needs, ranging from students who need to buy groceries to parents who must pay for the expenses of raising children.

Depending on a person’s situation, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for non-tipped workers and $2.13 for tipped workers may provide a sufficient income. But for many, it does not come close to a livable wage.

Thirty states as well as Washington, D.C., have passed legislation to increase their state’s minimum wage above the federal minimum. Ohio is one of these 30 states.

Washington state has the highest minimum wage at $16.28 an hour for all workers while Georgia and Wyoming have set a minimum wage below the federal minimum. Ohio sits comfortably in the middle.

Phyllis Knight, a server at Butter Cafe on Brown Street, explained that, as a tipped worker, applying for a house or a car can be difficult. Since tips do not appear on a W-2, qualifying for loans or credit at banks can be challenging.

“At least if we were making a good wage hourly, it would work out better for us when we’re trying to apply for a house or a car or anything like that,” she said.

But the problems don’t end with tipped employees. Non-tipped workers struggle too.

Lila Acott, a junior at the University of Dayton, works for Flyer Enterprises, a student-run business at UD. She has worked for the company’s division, The Chill, which is located at the University of Dayton RecPlex, since the second semester of her freshman year.

Despite having a second minimum wage job at the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center as a student intern, Acott still struggles to meet her expenses.

“Pretty much the only things that I don’t pay for are health insurance and tuition,” Acott said.

This leaves her to pay for her phone bill, groceries, transportation to and from school, sorority dues and school supplies. Working enough hours to meet these expenses while also prioritizing academics is challenging for students.

“If I wanted to sufficiently fit every expense into my budget and not stress about money constantly, I would have to be working probably 40 hours a week,” Acott said.

Forty-hour work weeks do not leave enough time for students to attend classes, study or be a part of extracurricular activities. Some students think the increased wage of $10.45 an hour for non-tipped employees still is not enough to accommodate the needs of students.

“Even $13 would be more livable,” Acott said. “I wouldn’t feel like my hair is graying every time I pay bills.” 

But the stress of balancing school and work is not the only reason students like Acott cannot increase their work hours.

The University of Dayton Student Employee Handbook states, “Student working hours are limited so that students can remain focused on their academics as well as for the University to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.”

The Affordable Care Act limits the hours students can work to 20 hours a week and 40 hours per pay period. If a student works multiple on-campus jobs, like Acott does, their hours at each workplace are combined, limiting them to a maximum of 20 hours a week total.

“I know people who are on the manager staff, and I’ve heard from former execs that they can’t even log all their hours in a week because they work over the limit,” Acott said.

So instead of reducing students’ working hours, the Affordable Care Act keeps students who work long hours from receiving compensation for their work. Minimum wage workers, tipped and non-tipped, are struggling under Ohio’s current laws. Instead of the increase in wage bringing about substantial change, workers see it as simply a band aid solution for a larger issue, with the war on wages continuing into 2024.

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Flyer News: Univ. of Dayton's Student Newspaper