Minimum Wage at the Ballot Box

Minimum Wage at the Ballot Box

By Alexis Caswell, Leonine FOCUS

Minimum wage increases are slated to take effect in 25 states and D.C. this year, according to Ballotpedia, and advocates in other states are working to get similar pay increases in front of voters.

An organization in Nebraska is trying to get an initiative to raise the minimum wage on the ballot. “Raise The Wage” Nebraska hopes to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. The coalition is working to gather 87,000 signatures in order to get onto the November 2022 ballot. The organization includes the Nebraska ACLU and AFL-CIO. If this initiative is successful, it will affect 20 percent of Nebraska’s workforce, Nebraska Appleseed reports.

Federally the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and in Nebraska it’s currently $9.00 an hour, according to Paycor. The national push for a $15 an hour minimum wage has been happening for a few years now in waves. Voters seem to be attempting to take the decision to raise the minimum wage out of the hands of lawmakers.

Some corporations are raising the minimum wages within their own ranks after hearing so much public support for it and dealing with the public pressure, including Walmart who raised their internal minimum wage to $12 an hour. The District of Columbia is currently facing a ballot initiative covering the issue of “tipped minimum wage” for servers. The initiative would eliminate what is known as the “tip credit”, a portion of a workers base pay which is covered by tips instead of base pay and would instead require employers to pay the full minimum wage themselves, according to dcist.

While those pushing for these ballot initiatives may think the voters will make the final determinations, it should be of note that D.C. voted in favor of almost this exact restaurant wage initiative in 2017 and it was overturned by the D.C. Council in an 8-5 vote, with the support of the restaurant industry. But some believe that the pandemic’s pressures on workers and the economy means that some of these ballot actions may become law.