TagWashington D.C.

D.C. voters to decide whether to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers in November

On April 6, the D.C. Board of Elections announced that the campaign behind Initiative 82, which would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers, submitted 27,026 valid signatures—enough to qualify for the ballot. The campaign had originally targeted the June primary ballot, but with a delay during the signature verification process the board missed the deadline to refer it to the primary ballot, pushing it to the November ballot.

The signature verification delay was related to the District’s distribution requirement that stipulates that signatures must be collected from 5% of registered voters in five of the eight city wards. Election officials said the delay was caused by random sampling issues and recent ward redistricting.

Adam Eidinger, a campaign organizer for Initiative 82, said, “We’re excited that we’re qualifying for the ballot, but there’s a huge concern with our campaign that we played by the rules. We submitted the signatures on time to qualify for the primary ballot.” The campaign submitted 34,000 raw signatures on Feb. 22. 

Initiative 82 is also facing a lawsuit filed in March by a local bartender, Valerie Graham, who is challenging the validity of some of the signatures. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington has also come out in opposition to the measure and plans on challenging its certification.

Initiative 82 would incrementally increase the minimum wage for tipped employees from its current level of $5.05 to match the minimum wage of non-tipped employees in 2027. As of July 1, 2021, the minimum wage for non-tipped employees was $15.20. In 2018, voters passed a ballot measure, Initiative 77, to increase the minimum wage for tipped employees. The D.C. Council voted 8-5 to repeal Initiative 77 on Oct. 16, 2018.

Initiative 82 has received support from One Fair Wage, National Employment Law Project, Open Society Policy Center, and Democratic Socialists of America (DC Metro area).



Committee behind an initiative to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers in D.C. submits signatures for the June ballot

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.

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