Workers’ Wages on the Ballot: Here’s What Happened

Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Laura McMullen

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When wage increases are on the ballot, voters usually say yes. That was the case in multiple states with one notable loss in Portland, Maine. Meanwhile, Illinois cemented collective bargaining rights into its constitution, and Tennessee will bake right-to-work law into its own.

Here’s how the 2022 midterm election played out for workers across the country.

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Minimum wage increases

Nebraska: Initiative Measure 433

Ballot result: Passed.

Details: A minimum wage hike that will increase incrementally from $9 per hour to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2026.

Nevada: Question No. 2

Ballot result: Pending.

Details: A minimum wage hike to $12 per hour by July 1, 2024. This increase applies to all workers regardless of whether their employers offer health insurance.

If the measure fails, workers are still set to receive an increase by July 1, 2024. Workers whose employers offer health benefits will see wages increase from $9.50 per hour to $11 per hour. Workers whose employers don’t offer health benefits will see wages increase from $10.50 per hour to $12 per hour.

Portland, Maine: Question D

Ballot result: Failed.

Details: The Act to Eliminate the Sub-Minimum Wage, Increase Minimum Wages and Strengthen Protections for Workers would have increased the minimum wage from $13 per hour to $18 per hour over the next three years.

The proposed $18-an-hour minimum would have also applied to tipped service workers, nearly tripling their current minimum wage of $6.50 per hour. With that hike, Portland would have enacted the highest minimum wage for tipped workers nationwide. This act would have also created a Portland Department of Fair Labor Practices to enforce compliance with the increase.

The minimum wage in Portland is still set to increase to $15 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2024, but that increase doesn't include tipped workers.

Washington, D.C.: Initiative 82

Ballot result: Passed.

Details: The initiative will incrementally increase the minimum wage for tipped workers each year until July 1, 2027, when it will reach the same minimum as the non-tipped minimum wage for that year. The current minimum wage is $5.35 per hour for tipped workers and $16.10 for non-tipped workers. D.C. is set to have the highest minimum wage for tipped workers in the country.

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Other ballot measures that impact workers

Illinois: Amendment 1

Ballot result: Passed.

Details: The “workers’ rights” amendment will amend the Illinois state constitution to ensure the right for workers to organize and bargain collectively to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions. It also prohibits the state from passing right-to-work laws, which allow employees to opt out of joining a union or paying union dues even if the workplace has unionized.

Tennessee: Amendment 1

Ballot result: Passed.

Details: The Right-to-Work Amendment will add the right-to-work law into Tennessee’s state constitution. Right-to-work laws allow employees to opt out of union membership or requirements to pay union dues at their workplace. These laws are typically lauded by pro-business groups and opposed by labor unions. Tennessee has had a right-to-work law in place since 1947, but this amendment will bake it into the constitution — a move that eight other states have made.

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