Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

(Arizona Mirror) The group behind a ballot measure that aims to ask Arizonans in November to raise the minimum wage turned in signatures Wednesday in the hopes of getting on the ballot.

The political committee Raise the Wage AZ has been gathering signatures for a ballot measure called the “One Fair Wage Act” since November 2022. The measure would raise the state minimum wage from $14.35 to $18 per hour.

It would also incrementally lower the amount of a worker’s tips restaurants could use to reconcile their wages with the state minimum, until eventually employers would have to pay all workers the state minimum wage, regardless of whether they receive tips.

The measure needs 255,949 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, and now the Secretary of State’s Office and county recorders will undergo the process of validating the signatures submitted. One Fair Wage did not provide the number of signatures they submitted but said in a press release that they exceeded the goal. After this story was initially published, the Secretary of State’s Office said the campaign filed 354,278 signatures.

“Come November, we’re confident that the One Fair Wage ballot measure will fuel turnout from critical constituencies of voters who are ready to vote themselves a raise and ensure that all Arizonans, including tipped service industry workers, are able to earn a full and fair minimum wage to support themselves and their families,” One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman said in a statement released Wednesday.

The measure will face a competing ballot measure sent to ballot via the Arizona Legislature and backed by the Arizona Restaurant Association. That measure would allow restaurants to pay tipped workers 25% less than the minimum wage.

After being previously voted down in the Senate, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1040, formally known as the “Tipped Workers Protection Act,” finally passed on one of the jam-packed last days of this year’s legislative session by a vote of 16-12, with only Republicans voting in favor.

The measure received support from all Republicans and a few Democrats when it passed through the House of Representatives in April by a vote of 35-24.

Currently, state law allows restaurants to pay tipped workers $3 less than minimum wage and use the workers tips to backfill up to the minimum wage. If approved, the ballot measure backed by restaurant owners would allow employers to pay tipped workers 25% less than minimum wage — as long as they make at least $2 per hour more than the minimum wage with tips included.

Opponents of the measure have filed a lawsuit claiming that the title of the ballot measure is misleading, as it does nothing to protect tipped workers, making it unconstitutional.

Raise the Wage AZ wants a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to declare that the resolution violates the state constitution to bar the secretary of state from certifying it to be placed on the November general election ballot. That lawsuit is still working its way through the court.

The ARA, who was behind a fake grassroots organization that rallied in support of the measure, has made similar claims against Raise the Wage AZ’s ballot initiative, claiming it will hike costs for restaurants and consumers.

Organizations with the same name as the ARA-backed group have appeared in other states that have had similar ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage.

Advocates of the measure pointed to Washington, D.C., as an example of how a change in minimum wage could impact restaurants. In 2022, the district passed a measure that guaranteed tipped workers the minimum wage.

The area saw an astroturfed campaign against the change led by a conservative group that pushed op-eds and quotes — often from local servers — to mainstream media outlets. The campaign also used the name “Save Our Tips.” Restaurants in the area also began adding surcharges related to the increase, despite it not being in effect at the time.

The campaign in Washington D.C. was managed by Lincoln Strategy, a Tempe company connected to a former Trump consultant, which used similar language and arguments. Nathan Sproul, who runs Lincoln Strategy, said in an email to the Mirror that his group was not involved with Save Our Tips AZ.