Council rallies behind $10.50 minimum wage

By Jason Hawk -



The minimum wage is on the way up to $10.50 per hour for Oberlin municipal employees following a unanimous vote Monday by city council.

The rate will top both the state hourly minimum of $8.15 and the federal baseline of $7.25.

Councilwoman Sharon Soucy has championed the increase for more than two years. Discussion started when then-President Barack Obama vetted a federal increase to $10.10 per hour.

“This will impact a lot of our workers — those who mow our grass, who keep our cemetery looking fine, keep our ball fields in order, help us with snow removal, and so forth,” she said. “These folks are committed to improving the quality of life in Oberlin. And this is a way to recognize their commitment.”

The bump will cost taxpayers between $34,000 and $36,000 per year, according to finance director Sal Talarico.

Originally Soucy had hoped to set the minimum wage at $12.50 per hour. But upward pressure, causing chain reaction increases for those making slightly more than the base rate, made that amount cost-prohibitive, she said.

Councilman Bryan Burgess suggested setting the Oberlin minimum at 25 percent above the state minimum, which would make the local rate $10.18 per hour. He also vetted a “longevity differential” for city employees, especially those who return year after year to seasonal jobs. They should receive a higher rate of pay than new hires who require training, he argued.

Soucy said she would hesitate to tie compensation to the state compensation because she has little confidence in the General Assembly’s wage policy.

Councilman Scott Broadwell urged his fellow officials to move ahead with the $10.50 rate rather than developing a more complicated wage formula.

“We couldn’t get it done before. Let’s just keep it simple. That’s my thought,” he said.

That sentiment garnered unanimous support from council, which directed city manager Rob Hillard to develop a $10.50 minimum wage ordinance.

Hillard said it would be effective Jan. 1, 2018, and be part of the next budget-making process.

Soucy called the wage increase a symbolic gesture.

Ohio has refused to let cities set minimum wages for all businesses operating within their limits, she said, advocating local rule. And President Donald Trump has said he doesn’t believe in a minimum wage at all.

In some ways, Oberlin’s move to increase wages parallels its action on sanctuary cities, said Soucy. It marks the city as a unique place that espouses individual rights.

“I hope we’re putting the word out there that we’re Oberlin and we believe in doing the right thing for people,” said council president Ronnie Rimbert.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.


By Jason Hawk