District of Columbia voters on Tuesday approved by a 55-45 margin a measure to rid the nation’s capital of the tipped minimum wage credit by 2026.
The measure, known as Initiative 77, was supported by the Restaurant Opportunities Center advocacy group and opposed by the restaurant industry. The D.C. Council could still intervene and overturn the measure.
However, opponents like Jose Andres, chef and owner of the Washington, D.C.-based ThinkFoodGroup, conceded the phased-in wage measure won the day and looked to the future.
“Congratulations to the people that used the democratic right to defend #77 — both sides of the equation,” Andres said in a tweet Wednesday. “Congrats to the yes77 platform. Now let’s stop demonizing and finger pointing to people and restaurants that disagreed with you. Let’s really create a good system for all.”
Currently, the minimum wage in the District of Columbia is $12.50 an hour, higher than the $7.25 federal rate. Restaurants, bars and other businesses can credit customer tips toward that total and are required to provide a base tipped minimum wage of only $3.33 an hour out of their own pockets.
Initiative 77 called for an increase in the tipped wage on July 1, rising from $3.33 to $4.50. However, procedural rules will likely delay enactment for several months.
The measure calls for the tipped wage to increase by another $1.50 annually, until the city has one minimum wage tied to inflation in 2026.
Initiative 77 would bring the District of Columbia on par with minimum wage rules in seven Western states, including Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and 10 of 13 members of the D.C. Council opposed the ballot measure. “But overturning the will of the voters is politically dicey territory,” the Washington Post noted, and no council member has called for that action.
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