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Cleveland's Minimum Wage Battle Is Getting More Complicated

Raise Up Cleveland members walking out of Thursday's meeting. [photo: Matt Richmond / ideastream]

Cleveland City Councilmen Jeffrey Johnson and Brian Cummins submitted alternatives to labor-backed Raise Up Cleveland's proposed $15 minimum wage this week. Johnson’s proposal gets Cleveland to $15 an hour by 2021. The wage would jump from its current level, $8.10 an hour, to $12 starting next year.

Cummins’ proposal reaches $12 an hour by 2022.

The original measure from Raise Up Cleveland, which would raise the wage to $15 an hour starting Jan.1, has faced stiff opposition from Council President Kevin Kelley and other members of council, including Matt Zone.

“What I don’t want to see is it to change overnight to fifteen. The Ohio City merchants I represent, part of the Ohio City neighborhood, they have taken a position on it. They’re opposed to it.  I represent Gordon Square.  It’s a thriving district where we have all local businesses.  Those merchants have taken a position against it," says Zone.

At Thursday’s council meeting, members heard from Dave’s Supermarket executives and Cleveland manufacturers. All the invited speakers were opposed to a $15 minimum wage. Council President Kelley, and other councilmembers, argued against any increase that only affects Cleveland.

The committee room on the second floor of City Hall was filled with members of Raise Up Cleveland. They all walked out of the meeting in protest.

 Kate Harshman, the the group's attorney, said they are still open to negotiations.

“Raise Up Cleveland is very excited for anybody who wants to have a conversation about having a higher minimum wage here in Cleveland.  However, Raise Up Cleveland is still committed to $15 now," said Harshman.

If council doesn’t pass their proposed ordinance or if it passes an amended one, the group can take the proposal to voters.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.