National Report - As the new democratic-dominated Congress promises to the raise the federal government's minimum wage to perhaps $7.25 from $5.15, voters in six states approved referendums Nov. 7 to relieve a 10-year gap in the hourly pay.
NATIONAL REPORT — As the new democratic-dominated Congress promises to the raise the federal government's minimum wage to perhaps $7.25 from $5.15, voters in six states approved referendums Nov. 7 to relieve a 10-year gap in the hourly pay.
By Jan. 1, 29 states that now include Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio will have a minimum wage exceeding the federal standard. At first glance, that might not mean much to practitioners who pay more than the minimum standard, analysts predict the hike will lead to wage bumps across-the-board.
"Those who have grooming operations and kennel workers are going to have people making $7 an hour who say, 'Now you're only paying me the minimum,' " predicts Jack Advent, executive director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association. "Practitioners can't just go status quo and absorb that. Payroll is a small business owner's biggest expense."
Yet veterinarian Rep. Shawn Webster, re-elected for his fourth term in the Ohio General Assembly, reveals concern for more than the wage increase, which goes up Jan. 1 to $6.85 an hour from $5.15. He points to Issue 2 language that grants public access to employers' payroll records.
"Any veterinarian doing his own payroll is going to feel an impact," says Webster, who practices in Hamilton, Ohio. "I don't really care for having just anyone come in off the street and say, 'I want to look at your payroll records.' It's extremely intrusive. I think this initiative allows for that."
Advent notes the Legislature must pass enabling language for the constitutional amendment before the proviso about records is cemented. Yet the initiative seeks to make three years of employee payroll records accessible to the employee or anyone acting on his or her behalf.
"What's unclear is whether or not the employee has to designate that person and whether you can request seeing what everyone in the company makes," he says. "Is it broader than just finding information on yourself? We don't know. The minimum wage is going up because the voters adopted a resolution to do it, but the details come from the Legislature. Disclosure is a serious concern, but I don't know if it's as extensive as we have been led to believe."
Of the six states approving constitutional amendments to raise minimum wage, Ohio tied Colorado with the largest increase at $6.85. Voters in Montana accepted $6.15 or the federal wage, whichever is higher, while Missouri went up to $6.50. Arizona voters raised minimum wage to $6.75 and Nevada set the minimum wage at $6.15 if the employer fails to provide health benefits.