Monday, July 10, 2006
A proposed ballot issue would raise minimum hourly pay to $6.85.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, a potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, told supporters of a ballot issue to increase the state's minimum wage that an increase in Ohio would be the first step toward increasing wages across the nation.
"This cause will not end when we are victorious raising the minimum wage here in the state of Ohio," he said. "It will continue next year and the next year and the next year until we are living in a United States of America where every single American is treated the same way."
Edwards, the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential candidate, spoke to hundreds gathered at a national convention for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
Supporters, most wearing red shirts and red visors, cheered enthusiastically for Edwards, raising signs that said "Ohio Deserves a Raise" and "Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage."
The group planned to canvass Columbus neighborhoods following the speech in an effort to build support for the ballot measure that seeks to raise the minimum wage to $6.85 an hour from the federal minimum of $5.15.
Ohio AFL-CIO lobbyist Tim Burga has said activists are on schedule to gather the 322,899 valid signatures needed by Aug. 9 to put the minimum wage issue on the November ballot.
For and against
Advocates of the minimum wage increase think Ohio could be a bellwether for how the issue will play nationally and could spur Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.
After the speech, Edwards said a ballot issue could help bring more Democrats to the polls. But, he said, he would be willing to give up any strategic advantage at the polls to have federal lawmakers raise the minimum wage across the country.
Opponents of the minimum wage increase say it would push jobs out of Ohio and lead to low-wage workers being let go by employers who can't afford to pay the new rate. Among groups who've said they oppose a ballot proposal are the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
Another potential presidential candidate for the Democrats, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is scheduled to speak at the ACORN convention today just before members march to the Statehouse, where they will hold a rally for the minimum wage increase.
Edwards also spoke to supporters of the minimum wage increase Saturday at a rally in Cincinnati.