Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

DC organizers start petitioning for minimum wage with tips

Tipped the minimum wage meeting in DC
Photo: Chelsea Cirruzzo / Axios

Campaigns to raise the minimum wage yesterday began collecting signatures for a similar ballot paper, which voters approved in 2018 – only to be ignored by council members.

Details: Initiative 82 aims to gradually raise the minimum wage of tip-paid workers to full equality with the minimum wage in DC

  • Under current law, the DC minimum wage for tipped workers is $ 5.05, assuming that the workers in tips make up the difference between this wage and the minimum wage of $ 15 for workers without tips.
  • Initiative 82 aims to raise the minimum wage to full equality with workers without tips by 2027.

Looking back: A similar voting initiative – Initiative 77 – was approved by voters in 2018, but was overturned by the DC Council.

  • Two councilors who had voted to repeal initiative 77 are no longer on the council, and one – Brandon Todd – was replaced by a councilor – Janeese Lewis George – who has expressed support for tip salaries.

Between the lines: Initiative 82 contains almost the same language as Initiative 77 with an addition: it says that tips will continue to be the property of the workers and will be a supplement to the minimum wage.

  • Back in 2018, the Restaurant Association of the Metropolitan Washington opposed Initiative 77 and urged voters to vote no with the argument that the initiative would completely replace tips.
  • Former restaurant employee and initiator Ryan O’Leary tells Axios that the organizers have not received any recall from RAMW on initiative 82. RAMW declined to comment on Axios.

Zoom out: The pandemic has exacerbated an existing restaurant staffing crisis in DC, the Washington City Paper has reported.

O’Leary tells Axios that raising the minimum wage for tipped workers while keeping workers able to keep tips makes restaurants more competitive.

  • “Any restaurant at the time that still allows gratuities, which I imagine will be almost all of them, will be seen as a more ideal workplace for service workers,” O’Leary says.
  • Seven states have already raised the salary to the full minimum wage with tips included.

What’s next: To get the initiative for the vote, the organizers will have to collect about 26,000 signatures over the next 180 days – reflecting 5% of registered voters across the country with a distribution that reflects at least 5% of registered voters in at least five constituencies.

  • The DC Electoral Commission tells Axios that the number of registered voters at the end of August was 517,682, although that number may fluctuate slightly.
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