D.C. Council repeals controversial ballot measure boosting tipped workers’ wages

The D.C. Council voted 8–5 Tuesday to repeal a controversial ballot measure that would have gradually increased the minimum wage for tipped workers over the next seven years, DCist reported Tuesday.

D.C. residents easily approved Initiative 77 – a measure that would have raised tipped workers’ wages to $15 an hour by 2025 – in June, but council members proposed a repeal the next month. Proponents of the measure said it would guarantee predictable incomes for workers, while opponents argued the initiative would hurt small businesses and may even cut wages for some tipped workers.

The current minimum wage for tipped employees is $3.89.

The repeal act will undergo a standard 30-day congressional review and must also be signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, which she is expected to do, DCist reported.

At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman tried to salvage the initiative with a proposed amendment that would only raise wages for the city’s “lowest-paid” tipped workers, like parking attendants or bellhops, according to DCist.

“Look them in the eye and tell them that their vote doesn’t matter and they don’t deserve a higher wage,” Silverman is quoted saying in the article.

The amendment failed in an 8–5 vote.

The tipped-wage issue has fueled several community-wide debates over the past several months. About 250 people testified against or in support of Initiative 77 at a D.C. Council hearing last month, and the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission endorsed the initiative in a July meeting.

“Council members who vote against their constituents need to know that there will be consequences,” Diana Ramirez, the deputy co-director for the worker advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center D.C., said in the DCist article. “Voters are going to remember that their vote was thrown away.”

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