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Friday October 19, 2018
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drawing of a feather pen signing a name with dollar signs

Signatures for Dollars

A professional petitioner explains how it works.

by James Leonard

From the June, 2018 issue

"Ann Arbor is the jewel of Michigan when it comes to petitioning," Josh Wickham smiles, standing next to a table neatly stacked with petitions on the corner of S. Fourth Ave. and Washington. "People here are friendly. Even the police are friendly!"

Sporting a maize and blue hat, Wickham explains that he's collecting signatures to put two initiatives on the Michigan ballot, "one raising minimum wage, and the other one is a sick time act." He gets paid $2 per signature from the organizations promoting the causes--in this case, union-backed advocacy groups.

The Gainesville, Florida, native formerly held a job he hated at a call center--"I wanted to shoot my brains out every day, man, just looking at a clock waiting to leave." He switched to collecting signatures last year after learning that "a friend of mine was doing it. I was surprised to hear that this was a job, and even more surprised at the amount of money they pay per signature."

He admits that on winter days "when it's like twenty degrees, it sucks." But he can make $200 on a fair day, $400 on a good day, and even more on a beautiful day.

Being his own boss, he says, is both a blessing and a curse. While "I don't have someone telling me, 'You have to be out here,'" if he doesn't go out, he doesn't get paid.

"If I'm not in a good mood--for instance, my grandmother passed away while I was up here, and that was really difficult," he says. "But the money is a motivator. I'm not gonna lie ... All these things that employers used to try to get me to do that I just wouldn't do, like shaving, I do all that stuff now daily. On the days that I'm clean-shaven, I get more signatures."

He also petitions for individual candidates, and he doesn't discriminate. "I did nominating petitions for Shri Thanedar, the Democrat running for governor, and for the Libertarian, and for a Republican."

Where will he go from here? "Possibly Ohio," he says. Once there, he'll swap that maize and blue hat for scarlet and gray. "I'll buy one for everywhere I go," he says.     (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2018.]


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