Matthew Stabley

D.C. Restaurant Workers Debate Raising Minimum Wage

Initiative 77 will decide how tipped employees at D.C.’s bars and restaurants are paid going forward, when voters decide in the June 19 primary.

The ballot question of whether servers should be paid the full minimum wage was debated Tuesday.

The current law allows tipped employees to be paid only $3.33 per hour, which will increase to $5 by 2020.

Initiative 77 would raise the minimum wage for servers to $15 per hour by July 2025.

Those who oppose the idea say it will raise the cost for anyone who goes to a restaurant or bar.

“We’re looking at raising labor costs by 300 percent,” said Ryan Aston of Restaurant Workers Association. “We’re talking about undo pressure on small business owners.”

Those who support increasing the minimum wage for tipped employees see it as a broader issue.

“It’s an economic justice issue, it’s a racial justice issue and above all, it’s a gender justice issue for us,” said Diana Ramirez of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

The two sides made their cases before a crowd of mostly bartenders and waiters, the majority of whom, when asked by a show of hands, oppose the change.

All registered voters are eligible to vote regardless of party affiliation and same day registration is allowed.

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