In 2006, nearly 57% of Ohio voters passed a constitutional amendment to guarantee a minimum wage law in this State that was automatically tied to inflation.  It was an election in which 53% of all registered voters in Ohio voted.

Fast forward to 2010, John Kasich is elected with roughly 49% of the vote in an election in which 49% of all register voters in Ohio voted.

Here is what the voters of Ohio enshrined in the State’s constitution in 2006 with a sizeable majority of the vote (Art. II, Sec. 34a of the Ohio Constitution).

Seems pretty clear, no?

Well, then the State Senate decides to sneak into its omnibus budget amendment one amendment that says this:


What does that mean?  Well, the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission says this about the Senate’s proposed change (pg. 4):

Fiscal effect: May result in fewer individuals subject to
the minimum wage.

In other words, the only thing the LSC can figure the Senate is trying to achieve is to reduce the number of Ohioans who are protected by Ohio’s constitution.  And they can only do that by changing (if they constitutionally even can do so) change the definition of “employee” so that it results in the constitutional amendment only protecting those who are already protected by the federal minimum wage laws (employees who work at companies with an annual gross of $500,000 or more.)

That means that at the same time the Senate GOP is dealing with the growing unpopularity of Senate Bill 5–a bill that rollback collective bargaining rights for public employees to levels they haven’t seen in thirty years—they’re now seeking to undermine Ohio’s minimum wage protections that the voters overwhelming supported a little over four years ago.  Voters in far great numbers than the voters who voted them into power.

If the Ohio Senate’s amendment would tie Ohio’s minimum wage law to cover only those employees covered by federal law, this is worse than just effectively taking Ohio’s minimum wage law to a pre-2006 mindset.   Because before voters passed a constitutional amendment for the minimum wage, Ohio had a statute and that statute covered employees that were not covered by the federal law.

So, pretty much, you’d have to go much further back in time in which any employee in Ohio not covered by federal law had no minimum wage protection at all under Ohio law.  You would have to go back before 1933 to find a time in Ohio’s history when there was not an independent minimum wage law that did not depend upon the standards set by the federal government:

In 1933, the Ohio legislature debated the merits of the O’Neil-Pringle Minimum Wage Bill. This bill, if passed, would allow a state official to establish minimum wages for both women and children employed in certain businesses. This legislation would principally affect factory workers and employees in other industrial occupations. The main proponents of the O’Neil-Pringle Minimum Wage Bill were members of the Democratic Party. Opponents of the bill primarily were members of the Republican Party, although a sizable number of Democrats also objected to the legislation. Opponents claimed that businesses did not have enough capital during the Great Depression to increase wages for women and child workers.

At President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s urging, Ohio Governor George White lobbied for the O’Neil-Pringle Minimum Wage Bill’s passage, although the legislation seemed doomed to certain defeat. Surprisingly, the Ohio legislature approved the measure in 1933.

If the Senate GOP’s minimum wage proposal is as drastic as it sound and actually leaves Ohio employees to the protection of the federal government and nobody else for minimum wages, then the Senate GOP would be taking Ohio back seventy-eight years.  In the middle of the Great Depression, Ohio’s realized the importance of a minimum wage law.  They saw through the same anti-business regulation scare tactics we see today. 

Does anyone truly believe that Ohio’s best days economically were behind us by 1933?  In 2006, nearly 57% of Ohio voters voted to make Ohio’s minimum wage law stronger than the federal government (despite considerable effort and millions trying to stop it.)  John Kasich never ran an ad promising Ohioans that if they elected him he’d rollback collective bargaining rights to low levels not since in thirty years.  He never explicitly talked about anything like SB 5 until immediately after the election.

He never mentioned changing Ohio’s minimum wage laws.  In fact, during the transition, his office specifically said such an idea wasn’t on their radar.

And yet, here we are with a budget that’s already passed the House, is about to pass the GOP-controlled Senate, and the Senate slips in a little noticed provision about Ohio’s minimum wage law that the nonpartisan LSC says may result in less Ohioans being protected… by Ohio’s constitution.

Finding a Republican in the Senate who actually ran on a platform (or will run for re-election next year or in 2014) of “weakening Ohio’s minimum wage law” and you’ve found a political unicorn.  They won’t admit it, and they’re scream bloody murder to protest anyone who suggests they are doing what they are doing.

First they rolled back collective bargaining rights thirty years.  Now minimum wage back to 1932.  What’s next?  Child labor?  This is not how you grow an economy.