Apr 6, 2022 - News

D.C. ballot will again ask voters if tipped wage should rise

A restaurant door displays a poster opposing Initiative 77 from 2018

A D.C. restaurant in 2018 opposes Initiative 77 to raise tipped wages. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

D.C. voters will decide — again — whether to raise the minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers.

Why it matters: Initiative 82 will appear on the November ballot, the D.C. Board of Elections decided on Wednesday. Four years ago, 55% of voters approved a similar measure to raise the tipped wage — only for the D.C. Council to overturn the outcome under industry lobbying.

The details: Initiative 82 would raise the tipped wage from about $5 to match the city’s standard minimum wage by 2027. The current minimum wage is $15.20 and increases annually to match inflation.

  • Currently, tipped workers are supposed to make up the difference in wages through tips, or be compensated by their employers.
  • Organizers for Initiative 82 say the raise would guarantee “a fair wage with tips on top.”

The other side: Critics say a higher tipped wage would lead to higher menu prices and discourage patrons from leaving generous tips.

The intrigue: Initiative 82 leaders had sought to hold the vote in the June 21 primary, when key Democratic contests are on the ballot. But the D.C. Board of Elections ruled to place it on the November general election ballot, following a delay in officials verifying the petition signatures submitted by organizers.

  • The signatures could receive more scrutiny, as opponents seek to prevent a vote.
  • Last month a bartender critical of the measure filed a challenge over some of the signatures, Washington City Paper reported, a potential harbinger of more pushback.

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