December 22, 2014

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Oberlin Council rejects increase in minimum wage

OBERLIN — City Council on Monday rejected a member’s proposal to increase the minimum wage of city workers to $10.10 hourly.

“I believe raising the minimum wage … will be an action our Council can be proud of,” said Councilwoman Sharon Soucy, who introduced the ordinance.

The proposal lost in a 4-3 vote, ensuring that the proposed ordinance would not reach a second reading and that many hourly workers for the city — at least for the time being — would continue to receive a minimum wage of $7.95 per hour.

Councilwoman Kristin Peterson, who opposed the proposed ordinance, said that she has not heard support from the community over the idea of raising the minimum wage.

Peterson said that the issue was a national one but did not have much local standing.

Soucy, who said that the proposed wage increase would only cost the city $25,000 — less than 0.5 percent of the city’s general fund — added that she has heard a very different response from the community.

“My experience has been dramatically different from Ms. Peterson’s,” she said, adding that raising the minimum wage for city workers would, “put our city at the forefront of a movement that’s gaining momentum across the country.”

Many residents who attended Monday’s Council meeting supported Soucy’s proposal.

Danny Rosenberg, a 24-year-old Oberlin resident, said he has many friends who work for minimum wage.

“To deny them a wage that gives people reasonable access to (food and shelter) is to deny them their dignity,” he said, echoing Soucy’s statement about the national impact. “I think Oberlin has an opportunity to set a standard for other communities.”

Mary Van Norwick, another Oberlin resident stressed that raising the minimum wage would not only benefit younger workers, but those who have held minimum-wage jobs for years.

Council member Ronnie Rimbert said the city pays their employees a good wage and those who work for lower wages have chances to earn more. “I don’t see how you can automatically open the gate and say everybody receives ($10.10 an hour) until they earn that.”

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.