Washington DC

DC Tipped Wage Initiative Likely to Go on Ballot — Again

The measure would gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $5.05 an hour to more than $15 an hour by 2027

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In just a few months, D.C. voters could get to decide if tipped workers, like waiters and hair dressers, should get paid the same minimum wage as non-tipped workers.

If this sounds familiar, that's because it is.

Voters approved the same measure in 2018, but the D.C. Council overturned it.

Activists for Initiative 82 showed up at the D.C. Board of Elections Tuesday to drop off 34,000 petition signatures in support of it — more than the 26,000 signatures required to get the issue on the June primary ballot.

“This is where the citizens get to write the law. If the Council's not gonna help restaurant workers, a restaurant worker can write the law, propose it and put it directly to the voters," organizer Adam Eidinger said.

If enough voters say yes to the initiative, it would gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers in places like beauty salons, parking lots and restaurants, from the current $5.05 an hour to more than $15 an hour by 2027.

“If you look like me, you make more in tips than if you don’t. When you leave a person’s base wage in the hands of the customer, to decide what they are going to make they're going to discriminate," said Ryan O’Leary, a former restaurant worker and one of the organizers for Initiative 82.

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Although the D.C. Council overturned the will of the voters in 2018, several of those members are no longer on the Council, and were replaced by members who support one minimum wage for all workers.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, who voted to overturn the measure in 2018, told News4 that while he opposes Initiative 82, he won't vote to overturn it if voters approve it.

The Restaurant Association of Metro Washington, which spent $400,000 in 2018 fighting the increased minimum wage for tipped workers tells news 4 they are monitoring the initiative process.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, who opposed raising the minimum wage for tipped workers in 2018, recently told News4 she’s unsure of her stance this time around due to the impacts the pandemic has had on restaurant workers.

If the elections board validates there are enough legitimate signatures, Initiative 82 will be on the ballot in June when D.C. voters go to the primary.

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