Minimum Wage Increase for Tipped DC Workers to Go to a Vote in November

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The D.C. Board of Elections gave preliminary approval for a question to be placed on the November ballot asking voters to decide if tipped workers should get the same minimum wage as every other worker, but both sides of this debate are upset with the ruling.

The D.C. Board of Elections ruled supporters of Initiative 82 have enough petition signatures to qualify to be on the ballot.

The question for voters will be whether tipped workers like hair stylists, parking lot attendants and restaurant staff should be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

But Initiative 82 won’t be on the June primary ballot as organizers had hoped because of a delay in certifying the signatures despite organizers turning in petitions on time. The chair of the Board of Elections acknowledged it took his staff longer than normal.

“We just ran out of time,” Gary Thompson said. “Because it was so close and unfortunately had to take an extra 10 days or something in that neighborhood to reach the final and correct determination, and it’s unprecedented in terms of the process on our part.”

Because of the delay, the question won’t go to voters until the general election in November, which supporters of Initiative 82 say is unfair.

“We’re excited that we’re qualifying for the ballot, but there’s a huge concern with our campaign that we played by the rules,” Initiative 82 organizer Adam Eidinger said. “We submitted the signatures on time to qualify for the primary ballot.”

An attorney for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which opposes Initiative 82, told the board they plan to challenge the validity of some of the signatures.

“We would just formally object to the certification until such time as the challenge that was properly filed has been determined,” legal counsel Andrew Kline said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, both sides complained about the Board of Elections’ ability to maintain up-to-date voter records, which they say played a role in the delay.

“I respectfully disagree that any errors were committed,” Thompson said. “Nothing was remiss. Nobody was irresponsible in any way.”

D.C. voters approved the minimum wage increase in 2018, but the D.C. Council voted to overturn it. If the initiative passes this time, it is unlikely the Council would overturn it again as the makeup of the council has changed with the majority now supporting the increase.

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