Photos by Darrow Montgomery

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Join us on May 29 for a panel about Ballot Initiative 77 at Black Cat (1811 14th St. NW). Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the panel will run from approximately 7:45 to 9 p.m. Admission is free, but attendees are encouraged to reserve a ticket.

On June 19, D.C. voters will decide whether the city should eliminate the tipped minimum wage. A tip credit currently allows employers to pay tipped workers like servers and bartenders a base wage of at least $3.33 an hour, thus asking customers to bring workers up to the standard minimum wage with tips. If tips do not carry a tipped worker over the standard minimum wage, the employer is obligated by law to make up the difference. All but seven U.S. states have a tip credit. If 77 doesn’t pass, the tipped minimum wage will still increase to $3.89 in July, $4.45 in 2019, and $5 in 2020. 

Restaurant Opportunities Center United obtained enough signatures to get 77 on the ballot. If it passes, the tipped minimum wage will go up in eight increments until it reaches $15 in July 2025. Restaurants will likely have to make major changes to their modelsinstituting a service charge, switching to counter service, or raising food and drink pricesin order to account for the increase in payroll. 

The battle that’s brewing is one that’s both high stakes and highly emotional. Tipped workers and their employers have called 77 “a solution in search of a problem” that could devastate the industry that already operates on thin margins. Proponents of 77 want to elevate a sector of workers they say earn poverty wages and experience wage theft, adding that tipping and a two-tier wage system disadvantages women and people of color and is a prime cause of sexual harassment. 

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While the Department of Employment Services found fewer than five wage complaints after auditing 593 hospitality industry businesses in fiscal year 2017, the battle over 77 question has some pondering whether the city should double its enforcement efforts of existing labor laws. 

Panelists:

Kathy Hollinger, CEO, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington

Diana Ramirez, Director, ROC-DC

Josh Phillips, Partner, Espita Mezcaleria

Sheena Wills, Tipped Worker, DC-9

Karim Soumah, Tipped Worker, RIS

Jill Marie Tyler, Co-owner, Tail Up Goat

Venorica Tucker, Tipped Worker and ROC Member

Thea Bryan, Tipped Worker and ROC Member

Justin Zelikovitz, Attorney, DCWageLaw

Ed Lazere, Candidate for DC Council Chairman

(Moderator) Laura Hayes, Food Editor, Washington City Paper

(Moderator) Andrew Giambrone, Loose Lips Columnist, Washington City Paper

Read about Initiative 77 before you go:

Battle Escalates Within D.C. Restaurant Industry Over Tipped Minimum Wage Vote

Bowser and Mendelson Oppose Tipped Minimum Wage Ballot Initiative

Leaders on Both Sides of Initiative 77 Battle Politicize Meals to Sway Voters Ahead of June 19

Chef José Andrés and ThinkFoodGroup Ask Voters to Vote No on Initiative 77