Ending the “tipped wage” is a key step to ensuring that everyone who works, whether they’re white, Black, or brown, can earn a decent living and sustain their families. DC voted YES on 77 in June so people who work for tips can earn more and be harassed and exploited less.
Initiative 77 will gradually raise the tipped minimum wage, currently $3.33/hour, to match the standard minimum wage, currently $12.50/hour, by 2025. Technically employers are required to “top off” tipped staff when tips fall short, but there is no effective method of enforcement.
Initiative 77 was created by Restaurant Opportunities Center, which organizes restaurant workers, and which has stood for paid sick leave, fair scheduling, and paid family and medical leave. The No on 77 campaign is funded and driven by the wealthy local and nationa restaurant industry lobby. They’ve spent millions misleading and scaring voters, owners, and tipped workers, claiming that one fair and equal wage will make customers stop tipping and will force restaurants and bars to close.
But seven states, including California, already have one equal wage, and copious data shows their hospitality industries are thriving. Servers in states with one fair wage have not lost their tips and in fact make more money. The same lobbyists claimed the sky would fall and businesses would flee when DC banned smoking in restaurants, expanded sick leave to restaurant workers, and created paid family leave. Our restaurant industry is thriving and yet the lobbyists are back at it, using scare tactics and intimidation to mislead owners and workers alike.
Meanwhile, nearly 1/4 of tipped workers in DC are on Medicaid. 90% report being harassed on the job. 2/3 of tipped workers are women, and women of color regularly receive smaller tips than white male servers. Servers who rely on tips are less likely to report abuse from customers or managers. Initiative 77 won’t fix harassment, but one fair wage helps tipped workers stand up for themselves with less threat of losing money they need.
Initiative 77 will also increase wages for nail salon employees, parking attendants, bellhops, etc. Service jobs are a growing part of our economy, and we need to make sure that every job can be a good job.