While Congress has been wrangling back and forth for months about raising the federal minimum wage, the City of Cincinnati is doing what it can to encourage businesses to pay their employees enough to get by.
The Cincinnati Living Wage Employer Initiative will officially recognize employers paying their employees at least $10.10 an hour, the same hike congressional Democrats have been pushing in the House and Senate. The program looks to reward businesses and nonprofits that take the step, providing a website, cincinnatilivingwage.com, where consumers can check to see which businesses pay employees a fair wage.
Though the program is voluntary, the hope is that positive recognition and consumer pressure will encourage businesses to pay employees a wage that allows them to be self-sustaining.
“Although the city of Cincinnati cannot legislate a higher minimum wage–that’s left up to the state–we do feel we have a crucial role to play in creating a culture of living wage employers,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at an Oct. 2 news conference announcing the initiative, which he’s helped push.
“Cincinnati cannot wait on Congress to take action,” he said. “But our local businesses and organizations can raise their minimum wage voluntarily and immediately, and individuals can make conscientious consumer decisions about spending their money with those employers.”
So far, four organizations, including the city, are listed as partners in the initiative. One is Cincinnati-based Grandin Properties, whose CEO Peg Wyant appeared with Sittenfeld at the Oct. 2 announcement.
Another is Pi Pizza, which is opening its first store in Cincinnati downtown at Sixth and Main Streets on Oct. 13. The company, based in St. Louis, has paid non-tipped workers at its seven locations in Missouri, Washington DC and elsewhere $10.10 an hour for five months. The company looks to employ about 100 people in Cincinnati.
Pi Pizza CEO Chris Sommers estimates about 75 percent of those employees will be hourly and not working for tips, meaning they’ll benefit from the wage boost. Sommers said the increased payroll costs are more than balanced by reduced employee turnover rates and increased productivity.
“We did it without raising prices, and we did it after extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis to make sure we could pay for it and that we could still grow and expand to cities like Cincinnati,” Sommers said of the wage boost.
He encouraged other businesses to make a similar commitment.
“If Pi Pizza can do it, you can do it,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s good for business–more people walking around, with not only more money to put gas in their cars, more money to get their cars fixed, but also more people to buy pizza. And that’s important, right?”
Boosting the minimum wage has caused a deep debate in the United States. Proponents, including President Barack Obama, who called for the boost to $10.10 during this year’s state of the union address, say that low-wage workers don’t make enough to survive easily or raise families, boosting dependence on government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Opponents, however, including Republicans in Congress like House Speaker John Boehner, say that it will cost businesses more and stifle job growth. Republicans also say that most low-wage jobs are held by high school students, part-time workers who aren’t trying to sustain themselves independently or raise families.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data, however, show that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are over the age of 19. Sommers said that few, if any, of the 107 employees at a recent orientation for Pi Pizza’s Cincinnati location were young students.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, though 23 states, including Ohio, have a higher minimum. The highest wage in the country is in Washington State, where employers must pay adult non-tipped workers at least $9.87. Ohio’s minimum wage is currently $7.95, which will increase to $8.10 in January, thanks to a 2005 constitutional amendment that pegs the state’s minimum to inflation. Even at this new state minimum wage, however, a worker working 40 hours a week will still gross less than $17,000 a year. At $10.10, the same worker would earn $21,000– enough to put a family of three just above the federal poverty level.
“While even the higher hourly wage will leave some people vulnerable, the extra earned income represents the difference between people being able to sustain a basic existence or not,” Sittenfeld said.
City Council is considering increasing cab fares prior to the World Choir Games in July as part of an overhaul of the city’s taxi industry. During a Rules and Government Operations Committee meeting Monday, Councilman Wendell Young described the industry as having little regulation and often undesirable experiences, The Enquirer reports. Council last spring removed a city rule that made it illegal to hail a cab. Among the recommendations expected to be made are the standardization of rates, an increase in the number of permanent taxi stands and the visible display of a Customer Bill of Rights.
The two men hired to beat a Columbia Tusculum man over a property dispute admitted in court yesterday to having been paid by Robert Fritzsch to whoop on Tom Nies Jr. The beaters will avoid jail time in exchange for testifying against Fritzsch. The beating was allegedly a retaliation after a court ordered the removal of Fritzsch's addition to his home that blocked the river view of Nies' house.
Robert Chase is a member of Ohio’s oil and gas commission, in addition to operating a private consulting firm that deals with many of the private companies interested in making mass money off the state’s drilling leases. The Ohio Ethics Commission this week warned Chase that such consulting work could present a conflict of interest, though Chase says he’s not surprised and that he knows what his ethical responsibilities are.
NBC has picked up a
sitcom set in Cincinnati starring Anne Heche, who reportedly plays an
Indian Hill housewife who believes she can channel God after
surviving an accident involving nearly choking on a sandwich (with
humorous results?). The show, which will have a 13-episode first season, is titled Save Me.
The Obama administration might be hinting at considering same-sex marriage rights during a second term, but the folks down in North Carolina are having none of it: A state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions is on today’s ballot, despite the existence of a state statute that already outlaws it.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is busting Mitt Romney up for choosing not to address a woman’s suggestion that Obama should be tried for treason.
During an event near Cleveland yesterday, a woman asked Romney if he thinks President Obama is "operating outside the structure of our Constitution," and "should be tried for treason."
Romney did not respond to the treason comment, but instead criticized Obama's recent comments on the Supreme Court -- drawing a rebuke from the Obama campaign.
Romney says he doesn’t correct all the questions that are asked of him and that he obviously doesn’t believe Obama should be tried for treason. USA Today pointed out that the incident is similar to one that occurred during the 2008 election, which John McCain handled quite differently:
It was one of the defining moments of the 2008 presidential campaign: A woman at a rally for Republican John McCain, while asking McCain a question, called Democratic contender Barack Obama "an Arab" who couldn't be trusted.
McCain took the microphone and said, "No ma'am. He's a decent family man ... who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." McCain's response symbolized his discomfort with the volatile crowds he was seeing as his campaign faded during the final days of the 2008 race.
A study suggests that fighting obesity will necessitate a broader approach than blaming the individual, likely involving schools, workplaces, health care providers and fast-food restaurants.
Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has apologized for pretending to have a degree in computer science. Thompson says he’ll update his resume but has no plans to step down.
The U.S. could make a $1.5 billion profit on its bailout of insurance company American International Group, Inc. At least that’s what the Government Accountability Office says.
cars have received their permits in Nevada. What's next? Drive down every single street in America and photographing it?
Journalism-related Web sites have been abuzz this week with rumors that Editor Tom Callinan is about to leave his job at The Enquirer. Callinan is keeping mum for now, but one of his rumored replacements says he will remain in California and not return to Cincinnati.
Two proposals by institutional shareholders designed to increase independent oversight at Cintas Corp. failed to gain a majority of votes Tuesday at the company’s annual meeting.
The proposals included one by the North Carolina Retirement Systems, which represents the pension investments of unionized North Carolina state government workers. It sought to have an independent chairman — unconnected to the Farmer family — appointed to the board of directors to enhance oversight and improve the company’s abysmal safety record.
The other proposal sought an advisory shareholder vote on executive pay.
As the meeting was conducted, more than 300 protesters comprised of Cintas workers from across the nation and their local supporters rallied outside of the company’s Mason headquarters (pictured above), demanding an end to what they described as egregiously unsafe working conditions at the uniform supplier’s industrial laundries.
A proposal by another institutional shareholder — CtW Investment Group — was also defeated that would have blocked the appointment of David Phillips to the Cintas board due to what it described as an undisclosed conflict of interest and weak leadership in his role as the company’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee chairman.
(See my recent news article "Cintas Under a Microscope" for background on these shareholder proposals.)
Cintas didn’t reveal the vote totals for board appointments. CtW representatives said about 35 percent of outside shareholders opposed Phillips’ appointment, which amounted to a “vote of no confidence.”
CtW had alleged that in his role as committee chairman, “Mr. Phillips bears responsibility for many of the company’s questionable governance practices, which include … inadequate response to legitimate governance concerns."
Further, CtW disliked that Phillips serves as trustee of Cincinnati Works, which received more than $200,000 in charitable contributions from foundations controlled by Cintas insiders and affiliates.
Each of the proposals had been endorsed by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), an organization trying to unionize Cintas workers for more than five years.
Some Cintas employees who were given proxies by shareholders were denied access to the annual meeting, according to UNITE.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited at least 10 Cintas facilities nationwide in just over a year for safety violations, including one that resulted in the death of a worker. Since 2003 Cintas has been cited for more than 170 OSHA violations in its facilities, including more than 70 citations that OSHA deemed could cause “death or serious physical harm."
(Photo of protest outside Cintas annual meeting on Oct. 15 by Cameron Knight. See more photos here)
Cincinnati council members and community leaders today explained and defended plans to use the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.
But before City Council unanimously passed the motion at today's meeting, it was amended to allow the city administration to find alternate sources of funding.
Since the city dismantled its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses have plummeted, while rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively flat.
But because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, governments must conduct a study to prove there's a race- or gender-based disparity before policies can be adjusted to favor such groups.
Cincinnati has not taken up a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.
"This is an opportunity to respond to a complaint and concern that has been around for as long as I can remember," Councilman Wendell Young said.
City officials claim they couldn't conduct another study until the administration finished implementing recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city's small business program.
But the holdup has also been brought on by the study's cost, which city officials currently estimate between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, defended the cost by explaining a disparity study can potentially lead to economic development by lifting minority groups, who currently face unemployment rates higher than white Cincinnati residents. She said it's on the city to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, benefit from Cincinnati's economic growth.
Other critics, particularly mayoral candidate John Cranley, have criticized the motion's suggestion for funding. The motion asks the city administration to fund the study with part of the upfront money that will come from leasing the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it does allow the city administration to find other funding options if possible.
Cranley, who supports conducting a disparity study but opposes the parking lease, says the money should come from other, unnamed sources because parking funds are currently being held up while the city hashes out legal uncertainty surrounding the lease and the Port Authority works out contracts with private operators that will manage Cincinnati's parking assets.
In response to those concerns, Qualls said that "money doesn't grow on trees" and Council has to make do with what it has.
Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the parking lease, but he supports using parking funds for the disparity study. He says that, while he may have voted against the lease, the vote is done and the money is there.
The amended motion was unanimously passed by City Council today. It asks the city administration to present a budget and timetable for the study at the Budget and Finance Committee's first October meeting.
Updated at 3:18 p.m. with results of City Council meeting.
2010 already is beginning to look a lot like 2009 at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In a memo issued Dec. 1, an executive with The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s Virginia-based owner, wrote that newspaper employees must take another five-day, unpaid furlough within the first quarter of the year. Bob Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. community publishing president, blamed the continuing weak economy.
The Business Courier reported today that many downtown business performed better than expected this holiday season, saying that many didn't perform as well as last year but their revised expectations were met or exceeded. This was attributed to the public's increased support of local businesses.
According to emails and phone calls received by WWVA-AM West
Virginia talk show host David Blomquist, miners said they were told that
attendance at the Romney event would be mandatory and unpaid.
As first reported by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland on Tuesday, mine owner Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said that people who did now show up to the event, which organizers say drew 1,500 miners and family members, were not penalized for their absence.
Blomquist said during the radio show that current and former
employees had called and emailed him saying they feel they were forced to go,
had to take off a day without pay and a roll call was taken, which caused some
employees to believe they would lose their jobs if they didn’t show up.
“Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen,” Blomquist read from an email he had received. “It is wrong what we were made to do because of the outcome if we don’t.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported that Murray Energy Corp.
founder Robert Murray attended the Tuesday breakfast hosted by the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention. Murray told the newspaper that the decision to
close the mine was made at the request of the Secret Service.
Murray disputed the report that miners weren’t paid for the day, saying they were compensated for the hours they spend underground, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The mine was re-opened for a second shift at 4 p.m.
“They were all there voluntarily,” Murray said of the miners
who attended the Romney event, which was also attended by Republican U.S.
Senator Rob Portman and Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
“You don’t pay people to go voluntarily to a political event. If I would’ve paid them you would be saying you want it the other way. This is all a bunch of nonsense,” Murray told The Dispatch. Federal law prohibits the paying of private employees to attend a political event.
Murray blames layoffs at some of his mines on Obama’s
policies. His companies have had a history of environmental and safety violations,
and its Political Action Committee has held fundraisers for and donated to
Romney’s Ohio campaign spokesman disputed that the Secret Service had the mine shut down, telling The Dispatch in an email that “It was Murray Energy’s decision to close the Century Mine, not the campaign’s or the Secret Services.” His comment echoes what Murray CFO Moore said on the radio show, that management wanted to attend the event and they couldn’t have miners underground without management present.
For his part, radio host Blomquist took issue with the fact that
the miners lost out on a full eight hours of pay because of a political event.
“My whole point is that nobody should be pressured into attending anyone’s political event,” he told The Plain Dealer. “If they shut the mine down, why should they lose a day’s pay? There are some guys that just want to go to work, feed their family and go home.”