While minimum wage earners in Seattle soon will be paid $15 per hour, Ohio legislators continue to participate in the national debate over the federal minimum wage rate.
Such a change, if it happens, is not likely to hinder the bottom line of Erie County's biggest seasonal employer.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has condemned Senate Republicans for blocking the Fair Minimum Wage Act, a bill backed by President Barack Obama and a point of controversy following his January State of the Union address.
The federal minimum wage currently guarantees workers $7.25 an hour. Proponents of raising the wage say it has not kept up with inflation and, as a result, Americans struggle to put food on the table and pay for gas and utilities.
The bill, if enacted, would increase minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for about 28 million people and would bring 4.6 million people out of poverty, Brown's office confirmed.
“There are too many Americans who work full-time jobs to provide for their families but still fall below the poverty line,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Congress must come together to help give millions the chance for financial security and our economy the chance to grow.”
Opponents to the increase argue it will stunt job growth. Proponents, like Brown, say it will generate 140,000 new jobs over the year.
An increase in the minimum wage should not affect Cedar Fair's bottom line, an executive admits.
It may affect how many people it would employ, however.
Cedar Fair is Erie County's largest employer with its flagship park Cedar Point.
Cedar Fair employs about 1,700 full-time employees and 41,000 seasonal employees in nine states and Ontario at its 11 parks, three outdoor water parks, one indoor water park and five hotels.
All full-time employees are already paid more than the minimum wage, said Matt Ouimet, CEO and President of Cedar Fair.
Seasonal employees, mostly students earning extra money or retirees, are the largest part of the amusement park operator's workforce. There are approximately 5,000 of these employees at Cedar Point, and they work for minimum wage.
In five of the states where Cedar Fair has operations, seasonal workers are earning more than the federal minimum wage, Ouimet said.
In all of their parks, Cedar Fair finds practices to reduce the amount of increasing labor they use, either through capital investments or other ways to offset the labor cost to keep them competitive.
Ouimet feels an increase in the minimum wage could be a positive for the amusement park colossus.
“If in fact the wage goes up, there's going to be people out there who are going to want to come to an amusement park (to visit),” Ouimet said.
More disposable income in the hands of more people is how to break a sluggish economic recovery, said Peter Zehringer, Erie County Economic Development Director.
“I believe in adjusting it for inflation, which would bring it up to that $10.10 figure. That is long overdue,” Zehringer said.
A wage to lift a financial burden off the people needs to be done while the federal government focuses on job creation and the push of education for skilled jobs and internships, he said.