“I believe the minimum wage is too low. I blame the politicians - they should have done something about this a long time ago,” said Scott Schmidt, owner of 18 Wendy's franchises, 10 in Ohio. “However, $6.85, is going to cause us to have to lay off a couple of people at each Ohio location and to cut back the hours for some of the other workers. That's what we have to do to survive.”
Schmidt said most of his employees are not on minimum wage.
“That's what we pay our high school kids and people with no experience,” he said.
According to the new law in Ohio, the minimum wage will now be based on inflation.
“It's tied to the automatic inflation indexes,” Schmidt said. “The minimum wage will bring the inflation rate up, and that means earning dollars will shrink.”
Samantha Stegall, manager of the Family Dollar store on Gallia Street in Portsmouth agreed.
“Our people who are making more than minimum wage are not going to get a raise in pay,” she said. “So when inflation goes up, the value of the dollar of those workers will go down.”
Schmidt said restaurants, in general, work on a very slim profit margin.
“We will have to raise prices, and pass the increase on to the consumer,” he said.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said Thursday that hiking the minimum wage to $7.25 would be his top priority.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has listed hiking the wage as an issue that will be taken up during the first 100 hours of the new Congress.
Schmidt said he believes inflation will stay ahead of the income dollar. “Five dollars won't go as far. For example, when you go to that convenience store, you have to know they have to pay their workers too, so prices will go up.”
Patty Kalhaan, manager of Speedeemart on 11th Street said she sees the new minimum wage as a plus.
“I know our employees are excited about the raise,” said Kalhaan, “I really think it will be beneficial.”
One group that worked for passage of the minimum wage was Let Justice Roll Ohio, a program promoted by the National Council of Churches.
Rev. Evan D. Fisher, of Portsmouth, director of Campus Ministry at Shawnee State University, was a part of that campaign.
“It seems to me this is a good thing because it will give folks a better opportunity to provide for their families,” said Fisher. “And it will put more money back into the economy, because they will spend what they get, whether they spend it at the grocery store or wherever. They might even have a dollar to put in the collection plate on Sunday.”
Another issue surrounding the new Ohio minimum wage law is the issue of privacy.
“The average person doesn't understand that now everyone's wages will be public knowledge,” said Schmidt. “Now, someone will be able to call and ask what your wages are, and they will be given that information. Bottom line is, they're going to have more money and less to spend.”
Fisher said the raising of the minimum wage is a win-win situation.
“In other states that have done it, it has worked,” Fisher said. “Sometimes you see someone working two jobs beating their heads against the wall just to try to keep their head above water. And this will give folks the opportunity to live with dignity.”
According to a national study, the $5.15 minimum wage now totals $10,700 a year, nearly $6,000 below the national poverty level.
Here is the way voters in the region voted on Issue two: