Over 100K back ballot question on tipped worker wages, advocates say

Campaigners for a “One Fair Wage” ballot initiative seeking to allow tipped workers a standard minimum wage announced the petition has far exceeded the 75,000 signature threshold required to secure a spot on the November 2024 ballot on Monday.

“We’re here today to celebrate that we have officially gathered over 100,000 signatures,” said One Fair Wage Organizing Director Estefania Galvis at a press event Monday evening. “And we are very, very confident it will be on the ballot next year.”

The One Fair Wage ballot question, if it goes to the ballot and is passed by voters, would incrementally phase out the state’s minimum $6.75 “service rate” wage by 2029, allowing tipped workers in restaurant and hospitality industries to earn at least the standard minimum wage in addition to tips.

The ballot initiative was proposed in the fall and must pass additional measures in order to be put on the 2024 ballot.

Proponents at the press conference noted that residents who signed on to the petition were often surprised and “ashamed” of the wage system for tipped workers in the state.

“Our worker leaders said when they tried to get signatures, people said, ‘I am so embarrassed that Massachusetts has a wage of $6.38 an hour,’” said Saru Jayaraman, President One Fair Wage.

“We are going through a moment of incredible worker upheaval and power,” Jayaraman said. “1.2 million workers have left this industry saying, ‘I can no longer work for these wages.’ Tips have gone down. Harassment has gone up for a workforce that is still overwhelmingly — guess who — women, disproportionately women of color and the highest rates of single moms of any occupation in the United States.”

The event also featured support from figures including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, former Rep. Joseph Kennedy III and activist Kerry Kennedy and awarded local restaurateurs from Mei Mei, Mamaleh’s
and Comfort Kitchen for paying staff at or above a standard minimum wage.

Organizers noted the initiative has already passed in Washington D.C., Chicago and seven states. The organization is aiming to have bills and ballot measures passed in 25 states in the next three years, she said, marking the 250th anniversary of the U.S.

Proponents spoke to opposition from the restaurant industry and argued that the measure does not in effect hurt small business. In places with the increased wage, Jayaraman said, they’ve seen positive indicators for restaurant sales and job growth and cut down sexual harassment.

“Now the time has come for Massachusetts,” said Jayaraman. “It will happen here if it goes to the ballot. The polling shows it’s going to pass. It is time. It is so time.”

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