Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

One Fair Wage is collecting signatures in Ohio for a 2025 minimum wage ballot measure.

By meerna Jul11,2024
One Fair Wage is collecting signatures in Ohio for a 2025 minimum wage ballot measure.

The campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Ohio has missed a key deadline. Can organizers get it done by 2025?

The campaign to raise Ohio’s minimum wage is aiming to get signatures in by early September to get the bill on the ballot in 2025, a drastic shift in strategy after it failed to meet a key deadline this year to get the bill on the ballot.

The campaign wants voters to pass a constitutional amendment that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2026 and eliminate the flat-rate wage system for tipped workers.

One Fair Wage says it can collect more signatures, add them to those already in hand, and then get them all on the ballot in November 2025. The Ohio Secretary of State said his legal team is reviewing whether that is the case.

The ballot proposal would see an initial wage increase in January 2025, followed by an increase to $15 an hour in January 2026. However, that won’t happen because Ohio won’t vote until November 2025.

One Fair Wage withdrew its November 2024 plan in Ohio after it failed to collect enough signatures — canvassers were in the field the day before the July 3 filing deadline — and clashed with a fireworks show in downtown Columbus, complicating logistics. The campaign said racism and intimidation directed at canvassers of color had undermined its signature-gathering efforts in rural counties.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose was so frustrated with One Fair Wage that he called it a “two-faced, disorganized, rodeo goat campaign.” The campaign chairman declined to comment on that characterization.

But from the start, the petition drive struggled with on-the-ground logistics. Just two months before the July 3 deadline, One Fair Wage had vacancies in key leadership positions, such as field director, chief digital officer and data coordinator.

One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman said Ohio has a talent shortage for campaign management positions, which has contributed to key vacancies.

“I agree that there wasn’t a good team or bench of managers to recruit from,” said Jayaraman, who lives in California. “Part of what the campaign is doing is developing a group of people who are just starting to get involved in the political process, and the exciting part about having more time is that we’ll be able to develop a lot of them.”

Eden McKissick-Hawley, a Democratic fundraiser and campaign organizer, pushed back on that narrative, saying she had offered to work for One Fair Wage and submitted resumes of other qualified candidates for leadership positions. “It’s frustrating because Ohio has some great organizers,” she said. “It’s so out of touch with reality to suggest otherwise.”

Evan Holt, who worked on One Fair Wage in the Cincinnati office, said the campaign was so disorganized that employees couldn’t get basic supplies. “We were without printer ink for about three months.”

One woman, Mariah Ross, oversaw minimum wage voting issues in Ohio and Arizona and was assigned to communicate with reporters in Ohio. The filing deadlines in Ohio and Arizona were July 3. Ross’s automated email response said she was receiving a large volume of messages and would respond to people in three to four days.

“It was definitely too much for one person… it wouldn’t have been like that if we had more managers to hire, but like I said, there was a shortage of good candidates for management positions,” Jarayaman said.

Asked for documentation to support her claim that racism and intimidation in rural counties made it difficult to gather signatures, Jarayaman said the county sheriff told her campaigners they could not circulate the petition. One Fair Wage later declined to provide the sheriff’s name.

What’s next for Ohio’s minimum wage?

One Fair Wage needs just over 413,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the state ballot. Jarayaman said her team has collected between 600,000 and 630,000 signatures so far, and the campaign has a 60% to 65% validation rate. That means One Fair Wage has between 360,000 and 409,500 valid signatures in hand.

The campaign also must meet a minimum signature threshold in at least 44 of the 88 counties. One Fair Wage declined to say which smaller counties it will focus on to meet the threshold.

Submitting your signatures sooner rather than later will help with validity rates. As time goes on, voters can move around and change their voter registration information, making their petition signatures invalid.

Once the petition is submitted, county boards of elections will check the signatures against voter registrations. If One Fair Wage falls short, it will have 10 days to collect enough to reach 413,000.

If One Fair Wage makes it to the ballot, it will face opposition from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance. The business groups say a $15-an-hour minimum wage mandate would raise prices for consumers and cause tipped workers to make less money.

In 2006, voters approved a constitutional amendment that links Ohio’s minimum wage to inflation.

That means the state’s minimum wage in 2024 for non-tipped workers is $10.45 per hour and for tipped workers is $5.25 per hour. A full-time job at $10.45 per hour works out to $21,736 per year.

Employers with annual gross income below $385,000 can pay employees the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Campaigning for a minimum wage in other states

Despite missing the 2024 Ohio ballot deadline, Jarayaman said One Fair Wage is making good progress in multiple states. Here’s a rundown:

  • Arizona. Raise the Wage AZ has submitted 354,000 signatures and is now waiting to see if 256,000 of them are valid. The campaign will need a validation rate of at least 73%. If so, Arizona voters will decide in November whether the minimum wage should be raised to $18 an hour by 2027.
  • Massachusetts. Voters are expected to vote in November on a plan to gradually raise the pay of tipped workers to the same level as non-tipped workers, $15 an hour.
  • Michigan. Voters approved a 2018 ballot measure to raise the wage to $12 an hour, but the Michigan Legislature delayed the increase until 2030, leading to a lawsuit that is now before the state Supreme Court. If the court rules in Michigan’s favor, the minimum wage would increase to $12 an hour, and One Fair Wage will work with state lawmakers to enact a $15 an hour wage in the near future.

Jarayaman said One Fair Wage is also working to raise wages through legislation in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island.

Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which supports the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

By meerna

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