Tuesday, July 3, 2018

You still have to tip: Initiative 77 passed, but it's not law and $15/hr doesn't kick in for a long time

Initiative 77 on the minimum wage for tipped workers passed, which as readers may know I was opposed to. However, there seems to be some misunderstanding about how it works: the City Paper has an article talking about an increase in the number of people not tipping since it passed. It seems to be a mix of people who never tipped anyway, some who are using it as an excuse to not tip, and some who just don't understand it. In any case, it seems to be hurting take home pay.

The short version is this: it's not enacted into law yet due to Congress's oversight of all DC laws, and it's not certain it will become law since most DC Councilmembers oppose it. And even if it were a law today, the minimum wage will increase in eight increments until 2026. So people are not suddenly taking home $15 an hour. The tipped minimum wage is currently $3.89 an hour, which went up from $3.33 on Sunday -- an increase due to another law, not 77. So you still need to tip, please.

In one anecdote, a party of eight at a fancy restaurant said "congratulations on the raise" to their server and tipped $50 on an $1300 bill. It's hard to tell if they were sincere and just didn't get it or what. Other servers and bartenders talk about customers asking how tipping works now, which is sort of an awkward conversation -- it's not really good to tell someone how much to tip you.

Still others talk about a more mundane but still bad pattern of an increase in people not tipping on smaller bills. One bartender in the City Paper article says two people directly told him they won't be tipping due to Initiative 77 and another say that multiple people told him think they banned tipping by voting for 77. It's not big money like the $1300 bill above, but small amounts add up and sometimes people need every little bit to get by.

As a bartender at Jack's American Grill says:
"When you don't tip at all or you're waiting on this $15 an hour [change], you're slashing people's income by 75 percent or more."
Part of the reason may be how the law was written, which was somewhat confusing: 2/3 of the text on the ballot were already law, but it made it sound like by voting for it, you are getting a minimum wage increase plus increased wages for tipped workers. The City Paper talked about this too before the election. It's also part of the reason why the campaign against Initiative 77 used "Save Our Tips" as their slogan.

So if you're confused, or know someone who is, please set them straight. Tip like normal.

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