Battle to raise Cleveland’s minimum wage

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CLEVELAND - The battle to raise Cleveland’s minimum wage to $15 an hour will be a hot topic at Cleveland City Hall, as council members discuss the proposal Thursday morning.

In May, members of the group Raise Up Cleveland turned in more than 28,000 signatures on a petition to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour, beginning next year.

"Many of our people who work in Cleveland are making what we call poverty wages...15,000/16,000 a year is not something a female head of household can live on," said Ward 10 councilman Jeff Johnson.

Johnson supports the minimum wage increase. But he says some business owners in his ward are uncomfortable with a jump to $15 an hour all at once. Thursday, he plans to ask council members to consider phasing in the increase over five years.

"In January of next year, it'll go to $12, so that is still a good raise from $8.10 to $12 dollars an hour, and then from there .75 cent for the next four years," Johnson explained.

Mayor Frank Jackson and Council President Kevin Kelley have both spoken out against the $15 wage, if it only applies to Cleveland, fearing it could push businesses out of town. They say they would support it, if the wage increase took effect statewide or nationwide.

Raise Up Cleveland released a statement that reads, in part... "Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council President Kevin Kelley need to stop playing politics and actually do something to combat income inequality and poverty in our neighborhoods."

"If we do nothing, that means the Raise Up Cleveland group could decide to take it to the ballot," Johnson said.

Raise up Cleveland says, according to a poll they conducted, 77% of Clevelanders support the increase. Councilman Johnson says he hopes his proposal will be received as an acceptable compromise.

"What do you address, the fear of the business people or the reality of what's happening to those who are working 40 hours a week, making what we call poverty wages? It's a tough decision," Johnson said.

A representative from Raise Up Cleveland tells Fox 8 they will address Jeff Johnson’s proposal at City Hall before the council meets Thursday morning.