Initiative 77 is a proposed will in Washington D.C. that addresses the need to rage the minimum wage for tipped workers. Currently, the minimum wage for tipped workers is $3.33 an hour. The initiative is looking to increase it the current minimum wage by the year 2026.
Depending on the industry, tipped workers can earn way above the minimum wage earning hundreds of dollars a day, jobs such as bartenders, while other jobs like hair washers are barely making ends meet. There are two schools of thought when it comes to voting on Initiative 77 – one where it makes sense to help families in need by increasing their base wage per hour and the other where those families in need worry the initiative will ultimately encourage diners not to tip altogether.
According to the Department of Employment Services, there are roughly 30,000 employees that rely on tips that work in Washington D.C. The goal of Initiative 77 is to point out that tips should not be a substitute for income but should be just that – a gratuity for a job well done regardless of salary. D.C. has some safeguards in place requiring employers to pay tipped workers $12.50 an hour if they do not make that much in tips. But according to the Department of Employment Services, the average cost of living in DC is $14.20 meaning that many tipped employees are living well below the poverty line.
Many restaurant owners are against the change because an increase in payroll means an overall increase in the price of their menu items which could alienate regular customers and might ultimately lead to laying off staff members simply because they cannot afford to keep everyone.
In other states like California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Montana, and Minnesota have laws that require tipped employees be paid minimum wage. Research also shows that in these states diners continue to tip regardless of the higher minimum wage. We will see what happens tomorrow when the ballots are in and determine if this will be heading to NYC.