National Consumers League

National Consumers League disappointed by DC City Council’s overturning of popular vote

October 4, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC--The National Consumers League (NCL) is deeply disappointed by the DC City Council’s vote to overturn a ballot measure voters approved in June to raise the minimum wage for restaurant servers and other tipped workers in the District of Columbia.

On Tuesday, the city council voted 8 to 5 in favor of repealing the measure, and now it’s up to Mayor Muriel Bowser to either veto or sign the bill. In the past, Bowser has expressed opposition to Initiative 77. The initiative requires DC businesses to eventually pay the full $15 local minimum wage to restaurant servers, bartenders, valets, and other workers who earn most of their income from customers’ tips.

“Abolishing a low minimum wage for tipped workers would give a much-needed boost to low-income families who barely earn enough to make ends meet,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. The national consumer and worker advocacy organization is headquartered in Washington, DC, where some of its staff has been involved in advocacy efforts to ensure that DC residents’ voices were heard on the issue.

Businesses in the city can currently pay tipped workers as little as $3.89 per hour as long as workers make enough money in tips to earn the full minimum wage. (The city’s regular minimum wage is currently $13.25 but will reach $15 by 2020.) If their tips aren’t enough, employers are supposed to pay the difference.

Despite being approved by voters in the June primary, the measure sparked fierce opposition from the local restaurant industry, which claimed that such a move would drive away small businesses and force restaurants to slash jobs.

Despite all the hype surrounding the potential negative impacts of Initiative 77, it’s unlikely to have drastic consequences. Based on available research, customers would likely pay a little more for their meals and tip slightly less. However, workers would see a modest income boost, which would help DC’s most vulnerable communities become less financially fragile.

“The fate of Initiative 77 represents a crucial test for the national movement to raise wages for low-wage workers,” said Greenberg. “Prospects may be bleak for this voter-approved ballot initiative, but our fight for equitable wages will continue.”

###

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.