Thursday, May 3, 2018

Recommendation: vote no on Initiative 77 and help tipped workers; basically every bar and restaurant in our area agrees

DC has a primary election coming up June 19 with a number of things on the ballot: the Democratic primaries for Mayor, Chairman of the DC Council, Ward 1, 3, 5 and 6 council, and many other races. The Democratic primaries are generally the de facto election, as there are way more registered Dems than other parties in the city.

However, there's also a question called Initiative 77 that is related to wages for tipped workers, such as bartenders and waitstaff at restaurants. Developed by Restaurant Opportunities Centers, a group out of New York City, it sounds good when you read it: the idea is to get rid of tipped wages and instead gradually give tipped workers the minimum wage in the city. Supporters say it will reduce poverty.

However, both bar and restaurant owners and waitstaff in DC are opposed to it. To me, that is a good reason not to support it, as everyone affected by it are opposed to it, including the people the initiative is supposed to help. There are some bars and restaurants that skirt the law right now and don't pay their workers their fair share or tips, but opponents of Initiative 77 say that is being addressed anyway, and this new proposal won't really help.

Both owners and waitstaff say the bill will make it harder to earn a living and won't address the issues ROC says it will, such as sexual harassment. They think that the initiative will put a limit on what they make currently (currently it's generally higher than the minimum wage) or even lower their wages.

Restaurant owners also say it will be harder for restauranteurs to make money, that items may cost more on menus, they may be forced to have smaller staffs, and it may cause some places to close down or move to the suburbs. They also say it will be harder for lower income people to open restaurants, as they will cost more to open.

The City Paper has a good rundown, and I've also heard from my friends in the service industry that they don't want this. was set up by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington to oppose the initiative, and has a lot of arguments on it. There's also, set up by local bar and restaurant owners, which says the law will result in labor costs being $11 per hour per person higher, which is a lot.

The open letter at VoteNo77 is signed by basically every bar and restaurant owner in the neighborhood: the folks behind DC Reynolds, El Chucho, Little Coco's, Wonderland, Thip Khao, Himitsu, Bad Saint, Ellē, Room 11, Purple Patch, Franklin Hall and Ten Tigers. As you notice that's a lot of small business owners, it's not the big national chains.

So I recommend you vote no on Initiative 77.


  1. KNOW THE FACTS: Discover why DC tipped workers are strongly opposed to Initiative 77 and are urging you to Vote 'NO' on June 19

  2. Since when is a subminimum wage reasonable? The irony of posting this nonsense a few days after May 1, when we remember the historic achievements of organized labor, is stunning. Anyone who has lived or traveled anywhere in the world other than the U.S. knows that tipping is an insidious scheme of business owners to avoid their responsibility to pay a decent wage to their employees. Equity for all employees!

    1. That's the thing though, like I wrote above and from talking to workers, they stand to lose money if this bill is passed.

    2. Unfortunately what ROC doesn't tell you is that our employers are already legally bound by federal law to pay us the minimum wage of our district of employment (in this case, DC's is currently 12.50 an hour) if we do not make that amount of money in tips within any particular pay period for the hours we have clocked in. This is usually run on a bi-weekly basis, and the penalties for skirting this regulation are steep; there is almost no incentive to skimp on paying your employees when the possible repercussions could put you out of business overnight.

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