Alaskans to vote on a ballot initiative to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour and require paid sick leave

In Alaska, a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and require employers to provide paid sick leave has qualified for the ballot. The initiative will appear on the ballot for Nov. 5, 2024, unless the legislature adjourns on or before April 22, in which case the initiative could appear on the ballot for Aug. 20, 2024. The legislature is expected to adjourn around May 15.

The campaign Better Jobs for Alaska submitted 41,609 petition signatures for the ballot initiative. The Alaska Division of Elections reported that 37,404 signatures were valid, and that the signature distribution was met. At least 26,705 signatures needed to be valid.

While the citizen-initiated measure has qualified for the ballot, the Alaska State Legislature can pass legislation similar to the initiative during the current legislative session, which would render the initiative void.

The initiative would increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 1, 2027. It would also provide employees the ability to accrue a certain amount of sick leave based on how many employees their employer has—they would accrue up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year if their employers have 15 employees or more, and accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave if their employers have fewer than 15 employees. The initiative would also prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees who refuse to attend employer-sponsored meetings regarding religious or political matters.

The current minimum wage in Alaska is $11.73, and Alaska is one of 25 states that saw a minimum wage increase in 2024. From 1996 to 2022, there were 28 minimum wage increase measures on the ballot. Voters approved 26 (92.86%) and rejected two (7.14%). The last time that voters rejected a state minimum wage increase measure was in 1996, when measures were defeated in Missouri and Montana

In 2014, Alaska voters approved an initiative by 69.4%-30.7% that increased the minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $9.75 over three years. That initiative also required that the minimum wage be adjusted based on inflation, or remain $1 higher than the federal minimum wage, whichever amount is greater.

In Nov., voters in California will also decide on a minimum wage increase ballot initiative. Measures have also been proposed in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

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