CLEVELAND - Two key labor leaders are voicing opposition and concern about a proposed jump to a $15 minimum wage in Cleveland.
They offered their first public comments to WKYC's Senior Political Correspondent Tom Beres.
Dave Wondolowski heads the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council that represents about 14,000 construction workers in 17 unions. They make an average of about $45 an hour.
Wondolowski supports a nationwide or statewide increase in the minimum wage.
But he believes a Cleveland-only jump from the current statewide $8.10 an hour to $15 an hour next January could slow down or halt the construction boom and economic progress the city is making.
"People will not build here...we will oppose it, " Wondolowski said.
Wondolowski claims lots of developers are considering new projects in Cleveland.
"This will scare people out of Cleveland, out of Cuyahoga County and potentially the state of Ohio," Wondolowski said.
Harriet Applegate is the executive secretary of the North Shore Federation of Labor. This is a delicate situation for her.
The Service Employees International Union, which is pushing the minimum wage hike through the group Raise Up Cleveland, is a member.
Applegate also believes a statewide or nationwide hike in the minimum wage is the best way to go.
But she says Cleveland is, "...one of the poorest cities...Where there are too many people working too hard for too little money."
Still she believes the $15 an hour Cleveland plan is too big a jump and should not just be in one community.
"If it went up to $15, that would be kind of a shock to everyone," she said, agreeing that it would be economically harmful to the city.
This puts them on the same side of the issue as the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which is against the proposal.
"A $15 an hour minimum wage would send all the wrong signals to people who have choices," Greater Cleveland Partnership President Joe Roman said. "When you artificially restrict something like that to one area, you are hurting that area."
U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez was in Cleveland Monday.
He generally supports state and local efforts to raise the minimum wage above the federal minimum, but declined to venture into specifics of local politics.
"Cleveland's leaders know what's best for Cleveland" Perez said. "Nobody who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty."
Raise Up Cleveland believes the proposal is doable and may put it on the ballot if no compromise is reached or if it's unhappy with the council's handling of the issue. They claim polling shows it will pass overwhelmingly.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council President Kevin Kelley wrote letters to political leaders and candidates asking them to speak out against the proposal which they claimed will bring disinvestment and a loss of jobs.
There is also concern about the issue appearing on the fall ballot with a school levy renewal and possibly a proposed income tax hike.
There will be another council committee hearing on the proposal next week.