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Cincinnati Becomes First OH City to Pass Wage Theft Ordinance, Will Revoke Business Incentives

Just Pay Cincy wage theft ordinance

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In front of a full chamber hall, the Cincinnati city council voted to impose stiffer penalties on companies who do business with the city and commit wage theft.  Cincinnati becomes the first Ohio city to pass such an ordinance

The ordinance was proposed by Vice Mayor David Mann.  It passed on a 7-2 vote, with Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn voting against it.  

Council member Winburn, currently running for Hamilton County Recorder, proposed an amendment that would make the ordinance apply only to companies who didn’t pay workers legally residing in the United States.  The move brought about criticism from many members of the council, including Councilman Chris Seelbach, for being partisan and political. Seelbach said of Winburn’s amendment:

“If you do a hard day’s work you should get paid for it. We should be helping the least among us. This is the exact same kind of attack on undocumented workers as Donald Trump.  Workers deserve to be treated equally under the law.”

Councilman Christopher Smitherman also condemned Winburn’s amendment:

“Treating people like slaves is wrong.  It’s a conservative principle that your word is your bond. There’s no gray area here around political parties, in my opinion.”

The ordinance was supported by Mayor John Cranley.  Under the terms, if the city or another agency determines that a company has committed wage theft, city officials can take action to have the money returned by revoking tax-credit agreements and requiring the repayment of grants, tax breaks, and other benefits.  Companies could also be banned from doing further business with the city.  The ordinance applies to any developer receiving a financial incentive of $25,000 or more from the city.

Wage theft has been a growing problem in the region.  According to, the number of state wage investigators has dropped from 15 to 5 since 2008.  The closest investigator to Hamilton County is located in Dayton.  

Councilman Wendell Young praised Vice Mayor Mann for proposing the ordinance:

“What (Mann) has done is not only laudable, but long overdue.  When we make people rich we need to be sure that we not be culpable in helping them exploit people.”

Brennan Grayson, director of the Interfaith Workers Center in Downtown Cincinnati, expressed similar sentiments:

“Cincinnati’s new ordinance is a model for all Ohio cities and sends a message that economic development projects will protect the dignity of wage earners.”


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