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Minimum wage increase not likely for Springfield

A significant increase in the minimum wage similar to the one passed in Seattle last week is likely not going to happen any time soon in Springfield, said Mayor Warren Copeland.

Legislation passed in Seattle last week will raise the minimum wage in that city to $15 an hour — more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The hike will be phased in and will affect the city’s largest employers first.

Ohio’s minimum wage is slightly higher than federal minimum wage at $7.95 an hour.

Springfield operates under the Ohio law, Copeland said. The city commission hasn’t had any discussions about raising the minimum wage, Copeland said.

Copeland supports an increase in the minimum wage, but wants it to be done in the broadest geographic area possible — either the state or federal level.

“While I would support an increase of the minimum wage in Ohio, I’m reluctant to see Springfield doing it because I think it may create an incentive to locate jobs somewhere else rather than here,” Copeland said. “It’s not a big threat, but it’s enough of a threat not to play around with it.”

Reaction from business leaders and owners in the Springfield area to the legislation passed in Seattle was not enthusiastic.

Dan Young, owner of Young’s Jersey Dairy and the Golden Jersey Inn restaurant on U.S. 68 north of Yellow Springs, said such legislation would double the cost of labor for restaurants. Labor costs amount to about one-third of many restaurants’ costs, said Young, whose summer operations employ more than 300 people.

“Doubling one of the costs that is such a big part of operating a restaurant would mean that restaurants would find ways to use less labor,” Young said.

While some restaurants that were already struggling would likely be forced to go out of business, he said, most restaurants would figure out a way to overcome the higher cost.

An increase to a $15 minimum wage would likely eliminate small businesses, said Lee Ann Lopez, who owns Lee Ann’s Dairy Delight, 619 East High St. in Springfield.

“Mom and Pop businesses like mine can’t survive,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying we don’t deserve (increased minimum wage), but there’s no way. I really don’t see places like mine making it when they do something like that.”

If the minimum wage increases, businesses will hire less people and will be forced to increase prices. She said she’s already at a minimum staffing level and has lost business since Community Hospital closed a few years ago.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who was elected last year, had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The measure, which would take effect on April 1, 2015, includes a phase-in of the wage increase over several years, with a slower process for small businesses. The plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller organizations will be given seven years.

The International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C.-based business group that represents franchise owners, said it plans to sue to stop the ordinance. The group called the council’s action “unfair, discriminatory and a deliberate attempt to achieve a political agenda at the expense of small franchise business owners.”

• Staff Writer Rachel Murray contributed to this report

This story contains material from the Associated Press.

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