Ohio Attorney General: Cities Can't Set Minimum Wages in Conflict with the State

Attorney General Mike DeWine speaks at a 2014 news conference. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

Ohio’s Republican attorney general said cities don’t have the power to raise the minimum wage within their boundaries, if it conflicts with the state minimum wage. But that hasn’t changed the positions of supporters and opponents of a proposed measure to increase pay in Cleveland.

The measure, under consideration by Cleveland city council, would bring the wage up to $15 an hour. It was submitted to council by a petition campaign led by the service employee union SEIU. Some council members have proposed phasing in an increase over several years.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a written legal opinion this week the authority to raise the minimum wage rests with the state. His opinion came in response to a request from the Hamilton County Prosecutor.

Ohio’s minimum wage is set at $8.10 an hour for non-tipped employees, and rises with inflation.

Though local officials typically defend home-rule powers, Council President Kevin Kelly said the state constitution gives Ohio the right to set the minimum wage.Kelley said he wouldn’t support an increase that was applied only to businesses in Cleveland.

“We can get to the number, we can get to the phase-in schedule, but so long as it pits Cleveland against the rest of the region, I think it that’d be devastating for our economy,” Kelley said, “and for me, that’s a starting point.”

Kyle Earley, the faith and community outreach coordinator for the minimum wage campaign, said DeWine’s opinion is just that—only an opinion. Early said they’re prepared to take the issue to the ballot.

“What we want to do is go into the community and have community education forums about what $15 an hour would look like, and how it would have a positive impact on Cleveland,” Earley said.

Council will make a decision on the proposal later this summer.

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