More than the minimum

A message from the President & CEO Suzanne Coleman-Tolbert

In our assessment of what works and what doesn’t for employers in central Ohio, we have found a common element of success. Simply put: when companies invest in their employees, those employees work harder and stay longer. Reflecting on 2015, one of the many positive changes in workforce development includes companies being proactive in increasing minimum wages for their lowest paid employees.

Nationally there’s been much debate about raising the minimum wage for entry level positions to help employees not only survive, but thrive. Recently we have seen cities and states from Los Angeles to the state of New York, make their own moves to raise minimum pay rates.

So, what about Franklin County? It could be argued that with a more reasonable cost of living, an increase from the $8.10 minimum wage is not really called for here at home. But, according to the Pew Research Center, when adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage actually reached its peak in 1968, when (in 2014 dollars) it was $8.54. The living wage in Franklin County is calculated at $9.65 for a single adult and $13.69 for a family of four (http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/39049). Though not always able to hit the mark, we work with the intention of getting at least the living wage for the job seekers we see at COWIC and OhioMeansJobs Columbus-Franklin County. In fact, when employers come to us with hiring challenges, we often find that low wages are one of the main barriers to finding strong, reliable talent.

Earlier in the year, we saw companies moving the needle on their own accord.  Aetna, which has offices in New Albany, increased its minimum wage to $16 per hour. This pay raise impacted 5,700 workers, amounting to an 11% to 33% raise for many workers on the frontlines in call centers and customer service. Nationwide announced in September that nearly 900 workers will receive raises to $15 per hour. The raise will affect mostly call center workers, whose minimum wage was $10.50.

We are glad to see employers taking the initiative in raising minimum wages to living wages, knowing that this step benefits the whole community. In 2016, we hope more companies in central Ohio look closely at increasing wages as a way to also increase employee retention. Studies have shown that increasing wages for work has a profound effect on increasing employee engagement and productivity.  As is often said, “You get what you pay for?”  A push forward for our lowest paid workers is a push forward for central Ohio as a whole. The minimum wage debate is sure to continue in the New Year, but what will be different is the growing evidence and proof directly from Franklin County employers that logical moves don’t always require legislation. For that we say cheers to change that really matters. Happy Holidays and we look forward to working with you all in the New Year.

Read more from our December 2015 Central Ohio Works Newsletter