District of Columbia

New Effort to Raise Base Wage for Tipped Workers in DC

The effort to raise the base wage for tipped workers in D.C. is getting new life after the D.C. Council overturned Initiative 77, which voters passed in June.

Initiative 77 would have increased the base wage for tipped workers, but the council repealed it before it could take effect.

Supporters of the pay increase are back on the streets gathering signatures again. This time, it’s for Referendum 8. If they can collect 25,000 valid signatures in six days, they can repeal the repeal.

According to lawyers from both sides of the issue, Referendum 8 wouldn’t even have to be voted on to change the law. If supporters collect the 25,000 signatures and get certified to be on the ballot, it would not only require the District to hold a special election early next year, but it would force the first phase of the pay raise to take effect.

“It is an uphill battle, but we are hopeful we can get there,” Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Director Diana Ramirez said. “There are a lot of people in the District really upset the council overturned this.”

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who led the effort to overturn Initiative 77, fears if Referendum 8 is successful, it will create confusion for employers and voters.

“It’s not good for businesses to have this instability, and there is enormous uncertainty,” Mendelson said.

“Yes, it might cause a special election, and yes, it might cause some uncertainty, but in that time, they’re going to see the sky isn’t falling,” Ramirez said.

There’s one more hurdle supporters of the raise will have to overcome — a lawsuit seeking to block their efforts has been filed in D.C. Superior Court.

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