Voters in Nebraska are projected to approve a hike in their statewide wage floor to $15, marking a red-state victory for proponents of a higher minimum wage.
The referendum, known as Initiative Measure 433, will gradually raise the minimum wage from its current rate of $9 per hour, eventually hitting $15 per hour in January 2026. After that, the rate will be adjusted each year according to an inflation index.
Approval of the new ballot measure puts solidly Republican Nebraska in a league of mostly liberal states that are on a clear track to $15 an hour wages. The last time Nebraskans signed off on a minimum wage hike was 2014.
Proponents were able to put the measure on the ballot after gathering signatures from 7% of the state’s registered voters.
A $15 minimum wage became a progressive rallying cry thanks to the Fight for $15 campaign that began in the fast-food industry in 2012. Activists have managed to pass a number of $15 measures both through legislatures and at the ballot box in states such as California, New York, Connecticut, Florida and Illinois.
“The Economic Policy Institute estimated that the Nebraska measure would affect nearly 150,000 low-wage workers.”
The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour and applies in any state that doesn’t mandate a higher one. Congress hasn’t voted to increase the federal rate since 2007, so a growing number of states have decided to act on their own. A majority now require companies to pay a minimum higher than the federal level.
The Economic Policy Institute estimated that the Nebraska measure would affect nearly 150,000 low-wage workers, or about 17% of the state’s workforce. The tight labor market and low unemployment during the pandemic have likely blunted the impact of such an increase, since many employers have already been forced to raise their wages in order to attract employees.
The Nebraska measure wasn’t the only minimum wage proposal on the ballot Tuesday. Voters in Portland, Maine, were voting to determine whether the city should hike its wage floor up to $18, while residents of Washington, D.C., were deciding whether or not to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for restaurant servers and other tipped workers.