On Feb. 22, the DC Committee to Build a Better Restaurant Industry submitted 34,000 signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections in an effort to place Initiative 82 on the June ballot. Initiative 82 would incrementally increase the tipped minimum wage from $5.05 in 2021 to match the minimum wage of non-tipped employees in 2027. In D.C., the minimum wage for non-tipped employees was $15.20 as of July 2021.
In D.C., proponents have 180 days from the time the Board of Elections approves the initiative to gather a number of signatures equal to at least 5 percent of the voters registered citywide. Signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in five of eight city wards are required to meet the city’s distribution requirement. For Initiative 82, approximately 26,000 valid signatures are required to be certified for the ballot. The Board of Elections has 30 days to count and review the signatures.
Adam Eidinger, a campaign organizer, said, “This is where the citizens get to write the law. If the Council’s not gonna help restaurant workers, a restaurant worker can write the law, propose it and put it directly to the voters.”
The proposed change was previously approved by D.C. voters in June 2018 by a margin of 55.74% to 44.26%. However, the Washington, D.C., Council voted 8-5 to repeal the measure, Initiative 77, in October 2018. The repeal was sponsored by the chair of the D.C. Council, Phil Mendelson (D), whose term as chair expires in 2023. At the time, Mendelson said, “77 may be well-intentioned, but the very people the Initiative is intended to help are overwhelmingly opposed. If we want to help workers – protect them from harassment and exploitation – there are better ways than Initiative 77.”
Mendelson told NBC4 Washington that he opposes Initiative 82 but would not try to repeal it if it were passed by voters again. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) also opposed the initiative in 2018 but has yet to take a stance on Initiative 82.
Initiative 82 has received endorsements from DC for Democracy; DC Marijuana Justice; DC Women in Politics; Democratic Socialists of America (DC Metro area); Dexter Williams, candidate for DC Council At-Large; Erin Palmer, candidate for chairwoman of the DC Council; Lisa Gore, candidate for DC Council At-Large; National Employment Law Project; One Fair Wage; Our Revolution DC; Open Society Policy Center; Patriotic Millionaires; and SEIU 32BJ.
In November, Nevada voters will decide on a $12 minimum wage ballot measure. Campaigns are also collecting signatures for minimum wage initiatives in California, Idaho, Michigan, and Nebraska.