Voters Out for Economic Justice: A Review of Key Polling Measures from the 2022 Midterm Elections

In this year’s midterm elections, voters showed a strong level of support for progressive ballot measures across the country. He tempered those victories with the defeat of worthwhile polling measures in some states and uncertainty about progress under a divided Congress. However, voters across the country approved increases to the minimum wage, protection of access to abortion, support for legalization of cannabis, and approved measures to increase housing affordability and promote good union jobs.

Although there is still much work to be done to enact a progressive economic agenda, these midterm elections have shown clear signs of support for a political agenda that prioritizes economic, racial, and gender justice for working families.

Nebraska: Voters approved Initiative 433, which will increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2026.

nvVoters approved Question 2, which would increase the state minimum wage to $12 in July 2024. The measure also eliminated a provision allowing employers to pay workers $1 less if they provide health insurance.

minimum wage

Voters in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Maine, considered taking a ballot to eliminate the minimum wage for tipped workers. The minimum wage system, which allows employers to pay wages well below the minimum wage, is a legacy of slavery and disproportionately hurts workers of color and women. More than 3 million tipped workers nationwide are paid less than their state’s minimum wage at $2.13 an hour. Meanwhile, workers in states with one fair wage earn a higher home wage and are less likely to live in poverty than workers in states that pay workers who receive a federal minimum tip of $2.13.

Washington, D.C.: Voters approved Initiative 82, which eliminated the minimum wage and raised the minimum wage for workers receiving tips from $5.35 to $16.10 by 2027. A similar initiative was passed in 2018 but was vetoed by the D.C. City Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Portland, Maine: Voters rejected Question D, which would have raised the total minimum wage to $18 by 2025 and eliminated the minimum wage for work that was introduced. The action would have also classified those working on the application as employees and created a fair labor practices division to investigate and enforce citywide labor standards. The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a partner in EPI’s Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), estimates that more than a third of Maine workers would have had higher wages as a result of this change. An increase in the minimum wage would primarily benefit women and workers of color in the state.

New York: Voters approved the Clean Water, Clean Air and Environmental Bonds for Green Jobs Act of 2022, which sets prevailing wage standards for construction projects. The bill also allows states and municipalities to require contractors to implement labor peace agreements and to purchase American structural iron and steel.

Illinois: Voters approved Amendment 1, which would prevent lawmakers from passing so-called “right to work” laws and give workers a constitutional right to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and working conditions.

However, in Tennessee, The so-called “right to work” was further entrenched at the polls. Voters approved Amendment 1, which enshrines the “right to work” in the state constitution and makes efforts to repeal the law more difficult. EPI’s research has shown that states with so-called “right to work” laws, which are designed to financially disenfranchise unions, have lower wages for union and non-union workers than states without such laws.

Colorado: Voters approved Proposition FF to provide free meals to all public school students in the state. The measure, which will also fund a pay increase for school cafeteria workers, will be funded by reducing state income tax deductions by households earning more than $300,000 annually. The Colorado Institute of Finance, one of EARN’s partners, called the initiative a “fair and equitable” measure that would “advance the physical and economic health of our communities.”

Massachusetts: The voters approved the first question, an amendment to the state constitution that would increase taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents. The Massachusetts Center on Budget and Policy, an EARN partner, estimates that the tax would generate at least $2 billion annually for investments in public education and affordable transportation.

Medicaid expansion

South Dakota: Voters approved Constitutional Amendment D, which would require the state to provide Medicaid benefits to adults ages 18 to 65 with incomes of less than 133% of the federal poverty level. Although the Affordable Care Act offered to pay 90% of states’ costs to expand Medicaid eligibility, 12 states have yet to expand eligibility. As a result, more than 3.5 million people—mostly people of color—lack affordable healthcare coverage. South Dakota is the seventh state to expand Medicaid through the ballot initiative process. An additional 45,000 South Dakotans will qualify for Medicaid under the expanded program, 14,000 of whom are American Indians.


voters in Kentucky She rejected an amendment that would revoke the population’s right to reproductive freedom and ban the use of public funds for abortions. The right to abortion is a matter of economic security, independence, and mobility for millions of women across the country. People who are denied access to abortions are more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed, and face other adverse economic outcomes. Kentucky currently has an abortion plan, but the state Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the ban this week.

CaliforniaAnd the MichiganAnd the Vermont Voters approved amendments that enshrine reproductive rights, including the right to contraception and abortion, in the state constitution.

Constitutional amendments to abolish slavery

voters in OregonAnd the TennesseeAnd the VermontAnd the Alabama Measures that remove language in their state constitutions that allow slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime are approved. Louisiana Voters rejected a measure to remove language permitting slavery from the Constitution after the amendment’s sponsor expressed concerns that the measure’s confusing wording could inadvertently undermine protections against slavery. Louisiana voters will consider an amended measure in 2023.

Many state constitutions maintain language similar to the 13 constitutionsThe tenth Amending the US Constitution, which prohibited slavery and forced servitude Except as a punishment for a crime. The National Abolitionist Network—which organizes efforts across the country—and other civil rights advocates argue that low-paid (or, in some cases, unpaid) forced labor in American prisons amounts to modern slavery. Imprisoned workers are not only exempt from minimum wage laws, but are also denied overtime protections, workplace safety guarantees, and the right to unionize. Supporters see these abolitionist amendments as an initial step in disrupting the power dynamic between incarcerated workers and prison staff and establishing basic rights for the incarcerated workforce.

legalization of cannabis;

Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in 21 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam. As legalization efforts gain momentum in states across the country, it is critical that lawmakers protect the collective bargaining rights of cannabis workers to ensure that this nascent industry provides safe, well-paying, and sustainable jobs for society.

Maryland: Voters approved Question 4, which allows residents to possess, smoke, and grow marijuana (within limits) and allows the General Assembly to tax the sale of marijuana. The legislation accompanying the amendment proposes a expungement process for past marijuana convictions and an aid fund for small, BIPOC-owned or women-owned businesses. An EARN partner, the Maryland Center for Economic Policy, has estimated that decriminalization would save the state tens of millions of dollars in enforcement costs and that taxing the sale of marijuana would generate hundreds of millions in revenue for the state.

Missouri: Voters approved Amendment 3, which legalizes recreational marijuana and will automatically erase the records of individuals who have been convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses and are currently not incarcerated. Individuals who are currently imprisoned can petition to be released from prison, probation, or parole. Advocacy groups in the state estimate that the benchmark survey will affect thousands of Missourians whose convictions for marijuana crimes have limited access to work, housing and the social safety net.

while, ArkansasAnd the North DakotaAnd the South Dakota Voters rejected the legalization of marijuana.

Voters in many states and localities have approved measures to finance the construction of affordable housing. As housing shortages grow and housing becomes increasingly expensive, particularly for communities of color and low-to-middle-income families, building affordable housing has become an especially urgent priority. in Kansas CityVoters approved Question 2, which allows the city to spend $50 million over five years to build affordable housing units for low-income residents.

Colorado Voters approved the state’s only affordable housing measure on the ballot this November. Proposition 123 would allocate $300 million in taxable income to the state to help essential workers like teachers and nurses buy homes, as well as help local governments increase the housing supply. According to the Colorado Institute of Finance, an EARN partner, minimum wage workers in Colorado will need to work 75 hours a week to purchase a one-bedroom apartment.

Angels Voters approved the LH measure, which gives the city authority to develop 75,000 units of affordable housing for seniors, non-homeless, and low-income residents. The ULA scale, which would raise $1 billion annually for affordable housing and homelessness efforts in the city by taxing property sales over $5 million, seems likely to pass as of this writing.

And the Austin Voters approved Proposition A, the city’s largest affordable housing bond. The $350 million bond will be used to build and maintain affordable housing for Austin residents with annual incomes of less than $61,800.

When the opportunity presented itself, millions of voters across the country showed their support for policies that would advance worker rights, reproductive justice, and racial equality. Legislators at every level of government must take this into account.

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