Get our free newsletter
Update, April 19:
On Tuesday evening, Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s office released her proposal for a citywide minimum-wage boost. It has been submitted to the D.C. Council for review and is being packaged under the “Fair Shot” label she recently employed in rolling out the administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget, also up for review.
“As I stated in the State of the District Address, we are going to answer [President Barack Obama‘s] call to raise the minimum wage,” Bowser writes in an introductory note to the legislation. “Cities and states across the country are proving that decent wages and strong business climates are not mutually exclusive. This Administration is committed to providing District residents with a fair shot and creating a worker and business friendly environment in which we maintain our regional competitiveness.”
In accordance with that purported balance, the bill as written would ratchet up the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage under the following schedules:
Currently, D.C.’s minimum wage is $10.50 an hour, set to rise to $11.50 on July 1. The tipped minimum wage is $2.77 an hour, with no scheduled increase other than through Bowser’s bill. (A ballot initiative for which signatures are being collected would eliminate the tipped-wage system for a $15-an-hour minimum.)
After 2020, according to the mayor’s proposal, the minimum wage would rise “in proportion to the average annual increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index” in the D.C. metro area, determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The tipped minimum wage would rise to half of the general minimum wage each year after 2022. So, if the latter were to fall at $16.50 an hour in 2023, the the former would be set at $8.25 an hour.
Bowser’s legislation also applies to D.C. government workers as well as contractors, although it wouldn’t be retroactive for them. (But: “If a [contract] agreement is renewed or extended after [the effective date of the act], the renewal or extension shall be deemed a new agreement and shall trigger coverage under this act.”) Employers who pay their workers with tips—such as restaurants—would have to submit quarterly reports certifying that each of their tipped workers received at least the general minimum wage after supplements. Those who do not comply could face fines in the thousands of dollars, imprisonment, and other penalties.
In an email, a Bowser spokesperson described the legislation as a “progressive, pragmatic way to support workers while not dramatically changing the tipped system in D.C. that greatly benefits” them. But already, the mayor’s bill has been criticized on the left for not being progressive enough, and is sure to stir concern within the business community.
“We are proud to welcome the Mayor to the growing movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 for D.C.’s hard working families,” Delvone Michael, director of D.C. Working Families, said in a statement. “At the same time, we are disappointed that she has decided to not fully include tipped workers in her proposal. No one who works full time, especially tipped workers, should be forced to live in poverty.”
“If she can’t get the entire job done and establish one fair wage for all low-wage workers in D.C., then Mayor Bowser should get out of the way and let the people act,” Restaurant Opportunities Center of D.C. Director Gaby Madriz echoed in a statement. Proponents of a ballot initiative that calls for minimum-wage equity between tipped and non-tipped workers have promised to keep pushing for it.
A D.C. Vote–Washington City Paper poll conducted earlier this year found that 70 percent of residents said they would “definitely support” raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.
Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s promised $15-an-hour minimum wage legislation will include tipped workers, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. Under the proposal, tipped workers would see their base minimum wage rise from $2.77 an hour to $7.50 an hour by 2022.
Bowser’s office is circulating the bill to the D.C. Council today, the spokesperson added. Though the mayor announced that she would submit the proposal sometime in April during her State of the District address last month and rallied with union workers last Thursday, the question of tipped workers remained unclear. Some advocates contend that they deserve the same minimum wage as everyone else (which would rise to $15 an hour by 2020 under Bowser’s proposal), calling for an end to the system where tips supplement the base minimum up to the general minimum. (That’s been done in several states.) Some members of the business community argue that the tipped minimum suffices, and removing it would harm restaurants and workers.
On its face, the mayor’s proposal appears to strike a balance by not eliminating the tipped minimum wage. Bowser’s spokesperson says her bill is modeled on a recently brokered minimum wage raise in New York.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery