BOARDMAN - Sherrod Brown says raising the federal minimum wage will be a ''tough sell'' on Capitol Hill with special interest groups against it, but the U.S. senator is going to ''make the fight'' to see an increase from the $7.25 an hour it's at now.
The Democrat on Monday brought his message in the push to raise the minimum wage above $10 an hour to Boardman at the Yankee Kitchen, where he urged for the passage of a bill that will incrementally raise the rate over the next two years.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act, of which Brown is a co-sponsor, would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015 in three 95-cent steps and also provide for automatic yearly increases tied to changes in the cost of living.
In addition, the bill would raise the rate for tipped workers, from $2.13 an hour, where it has been for two decades, to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
Brown said about 80 percent of the 1.3 million Ohioans working for minimum wage are adults.
''The myth is that minimum wage is a bunch of teenagers that are just working to get spending money, but these are jobs, often times some people have two minimum wage jobs, some have a spouse working about minimum wage,'' Brown said. ''This, I believe, as I think a majority of people in this country do, a better minimum wage gives people an opportunity they wouldn't otherwise have, and pushing the minimum wage a little higher will help to raise wages across the board.''
In Ohio, the minimum wage is $7.85 an hour.
Brown downplayed assertions by critics that an increase would cost jobs. Companies ''are going to hire the number of workers they need to service their customers,'' he said. ''That means if they pay them a dollar an hour more, it creates, it generates wealth. It means more people in the community will make more money.''
Another side effect of an increase, Brown said, would be increased economic activity by people spending those raises and job creation driven by that pumped-up economic activity.
What the 2013 Fair Minimum Wage Act will do:
Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015, in three steps of 95 cents each
Adjust the minimum wage to keep pace with the rising cost of living starting in 2016
Raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 an hour for 20 years, to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.
Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits with the U.S. Chamber, said the discussion needs to include small employers, who will have the hardest time absorbing the higher labor costs and will be forced to find additional revenue or cut costs to make up the difference.
''This reality is never part of the discussion,'' Johnson said. ''Furthermore, indexing the minimum wage to inflation means that employers will likely be faced with automatically increasing labor costs without an automatic increase in revenues or profits.''