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The BG News
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September 21, 2023

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Students, residents gather to hear US Sen. Sherrod Brown speak about increasing the federal minimum wage


US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speaks in support of raising the federal minimum wage at Grounds for Thought in downtown Bowling Green on Tuesday morning.

Students and local residents could see a boost in their paychecks during the next few years, barring the approval of a U.S. Senate bill seeking to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

Using his Grounds for Thought coffee shop as a backdrop, local business owner Kelly Wicks joined Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and local mother Carrie Day to advocate for such a bill.

The three spoke to a crowd of nearly 75 people in support of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise Ohioans’ minimum wage by $2.25 from the current $7.85 mark. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) earlier this month, would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $10.10 by 2015.

Brown dismissed criticisms that the bill would lead to fewer jobs and higher inflation, adding that the U.S. continuing to move in a progressive direction is a positive step for the country.

“It’s a myth that it costs jobs,” Brown said. “Minimum wage that keeps up with inflation is good for our country.”

Rather than hurting the economy, Brown contends the bill would bring $30 billion into the market because workers would spend their extra money back into the economy.

Describing the current minimum wage as being “behind the times,” Michael Hart, a sophomore, said the increase could help struggling college students.

“It’s hurting college students who are trying to pay tuition,” Hart said. “[Brown] is just trying to steer Wood County in the right direction.”

Supporting the minimum wage increase as a small business owner makes sense to improve working conditions for his employees, Wicks said. With higher wages, members of the community would be able to more easily support school levies, local businesses and other city endeavors, Wicks said.

“It makes no sense for a business owner to drive a Lexus if his workers can’t afford a car,” Wicks said.

Following Brown and Wicks at the podium, Day spoke of her struggle to support two daughters on a minimum wage salary.

“If we made more, we could pay bills and pay babysitters,” Day told the crowd. “We don’t need a lot to be happy, we just need enough.”

Brown, one of 26 cosponsors for the bill, hopes enough means a near 30 percent increase to Ohio’s minimum wage, $7.85 an hour for non-tipped workers, set by the state’s Department of Commerce for this year.

An Ohio employee working 40 hours per week on minimum wage currently makes around $15,600 a year. With the increase to $10.10 per hour, the same worker would see their annual pay jump by nearly $5,500.

With a U.S. Congress whose annual pay is listed at $174,000, the median net worth of the 535 members of Congress is an estimated $966,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Asked if this means Congressional opposition should be categorized as wealthy and “out of touch” or as mere economic policy differences, Brown acknowledged the difference in perspectives.

“Sometimes, Washington D.C. speaks with an upper class accent,” Brown told The BG News. “I hope [Congress] listens to the people.”

Even with broad American support for raising the federal minimum wage, with 71 percent of a Gallup survey this month approving such a measure, Brown said meeting with constituents about the issue will help signal Congress they need to act.

Sophomore Morgan Holliger of the College Democrats said direct appeal to citizens from legislators like at Grounds for Thought helps improve political participation and awareness of issues.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding,” she said of the minimum wage proposal.

Months after losing a state representatives race, Wicks said he still hopes to maintain political activism within Grounds for Thought and the community.

“Grounds for Thought has always been the source of political discourse,” Wicks said. “That’s the role of a coffee shop.”

Editor’s note: Editor-in-Chief Max Filby contributed reporting for this story.

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