Washington, D.C.

D.C. Repeals a Minimum Wage Hike That Restaurant Workers Didn't Want

The poorly designed law would have left a lot of employees with less money rather than more.

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Eric Boehm

When D.C. voters approved Initiative 77 in June, they thought they were giving the city's bartenders and restaurant workers a boost in the bank account. But many of those workers didn't want the law, which they didn't think would work as advertised. Today the city council answered those employees' appeals and voted 8–5 to consign Initiative 77 to the trash pile of bad policy.

Though it was served up as a progressive plan to hike wages, Initiative 77 would have actually cost many workers money. The proposal abolished the so-called "tipped minimum wage" of $3.50 cents per hour, replacing it with a $15 minimum wage for all food service workers in the city. But workers that I (and other reporters) talked to before the vote told me that they often make far more than $15 a hour, thanks to tips. Even if they don't, D.C. law required restaurant workers to make at least $12.50 an hour, with employers mandated to top-up employees' pay if they earn less than that much in tips.

Given the choice, many workers said they'd rather not earn $15 per hour at the cost of losing their tips. More than 8,000 of them sent comments to the city council urging them to repeal the measure. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, a Democrat, has indicated she would sign the repeal.

Supporters of Initiative 77, such as the union-backed Restaurant Opportunity Center, have called the move to cancel the referendum's result "flat-out voter suppression."

Hardly. With its vote on Tuesday, the D.C. City Council did what elected officials in a representative democracy are supposed to do: act as a check. After Initiative 77 passed, one of the biggest questions was whether the Democrat-controlled city council or the Republican-controlled Congress (which has authority over policymaking in the nation's capital) would be the first to strike it down. That should say something about the merits of the proposal, as should the fact that both management and employees were on the same side of the issue.

Julia Calomaris, a server at Bistrot Du Coin on Connecticut Avenue, told me in June how frustrating it was that so many people thought the initiative would be good for restaurant workers. The ballot initiative amounted to "giving help to people who aren't asking for it," said Calomaris, who has worked in the industry for 17 years.

There were also concerns about the unintended consequences of the new tipped minimum wage, which would have raised costs for restaurants and possibly forced cuts to staff. Ryan Aston, who tends bar at the Hamilton and who helped organize workers' opposition to Initiative 77, has said he was worried about the loss of prep cooks, barbacks, and bussers.

"If the law is a bad law, it should be amended or repealed. It does not matter if the law was adopted by the council, the voters or Congress," Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who sponsored the proposal, tells The Washington Post. He's right.

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  1. Julia Calomaris, a server at Bistrot Du Coin on Connecticut Avenue, told me in June how frustrating it was that so many people thought the initiative would be good for restaurant workers. The ballot initiative amounted to “giving help to people who aren’t asking for it,” said Calomaris, who has worked in the industry for 17 years.

    I doubt that most of the initiative’s backers ever worked in a restaurant. It’s a common story nowadays: paternalistic progressive wankers forcing things on the proles “for their own good”.

    1. I doubt that most of the initiative’s backers ever worked in a restaurant.

      Says a lot about their tipping habits and, arguably, their generous nature in general though.

    2. Julia Calomaris

      *searches for inappropriate “no backbone” joke*

    3. It’s a common story nowadays: paternalistic progressive wankers forcing things on the proles “for their own good”.

      It’s how the Leisure Class shows its deep and heartfelt concern for the Working Class.

  2. Is there a national registry somewhere that totals the number of socialist laws repealed when exposed to the truth?

    1. In some countries, truth is repealed when exposed to socialist laws.

      1. Like Soviet Russia?

  3. Supporters of Initiative 77, such as the union-backed Restaurant Opportunity Center, have called the move to cancel the referendum’s result “flat-out voter suppression.”

    Sure, voter suppression in an election poisoned by Union Meddling.

    1. How many servers and bartenders are members of a union? I’m thinking it’s pretty close to none. Looks like the Restaurant Opportunity Center is all about creating the opportunity to skim from servers’ $15/hr wages. That was step 3: Profit.

      1. That reminds of a National Lampoon Magazine ‘story’ about an agent for minimum wage workers.

  4. The ballot initiative amounted to “giving help to people who aren’t asking for it,”

    Government is the help we force on others together.

    1. We’re from the government and we’re here to help you…

      1. Whether you like it or not.

        1. Stop resisting!

          1. That’s what Kavanaugh said.

            *rimshot*

      2. No.
        It goes, “We’re from the government, and we’re here to fuck you.”

        1. If they want that kind of action it’s going to run more than $15 an hour.

          1. Hardly. They will fuck you and charge you $15 an hour for the privilege.

  5. Sanity in DC?
    Someone must’ve put something in their drinking water.

  6. “many of those workers didn’t want the law, which they didn’t think would work as advertised”

    A law that didn’t work as advertised? Who’da thunk?

  7. Vowing vengeance. congressional Democrats vow to turn their next efforts toward repealing the Law of Supply and Demand.

  8. many workers said they’d rather not earn $15 per hour at the cost of losing their tips. More than 8,000 of them sent comments to the city council urging them to repeal the measure. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, a Democrat, has indicated she would sign the repeal

    and pass along more than 8,000 names to the IRS, right? RIGHT?!

  9. Bezos caves to leftist pressure:
    .
    “It’s a major victory for the $15-an-hour movement. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has announced the minimum wage for its U.S. employees, with the increase set to take effect next month. “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said CEO Jeff Bezos. The move will benefit more than 350K workers, including full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal positions.”
    .
    “We listened to our critics the yowling masses, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead use more robots anyway,” said CEO Jeff Bezos.

  10. “Hardly. With its vote on Tuesday, the D.C. City Council did what elected officials in a representative democracy are supposed to do: act as a check. ”

    Actually, they do want all Dem run city councils, much like we do with Tony, ignore votes.

  11. Honestly as a customer, depending on the restaurant I would probably save money not tipping. Since my grandmother was a waitress and the other a maid, I tip like 20%

  12. Not the best idea to have a ballot initiative during a primary election when only 25% of eligible voters actually vote. It’s easy to motivate a single-issue group, say union members, to turn out to vote for the initiative instead of candidates who, in D.C. at least, are generally already preordained.

  13. As a cheapskate, I tend to avoid places where I’m expected to tip. But there are clearly many people who aren’t like me and go to such places on a regular basis and tip, some generously so. The restaurant and bartender workers know where the bulk of their money comes from and didn’t appreciate politicians and busybodies trying to shut off the money spigot. Especially when such laws are allegedly to *HELP* said workers. Now if the rest of the politicians and busybodies would get the message, we wouldn’t have to worry so much. Intentions aren’t enough; the actual consequences and results matter, too!

  14. Well there was a lot of misinformation from both sides on this issue. For example, the law did not outlaw or prevent tipping. Another complaint was that the majority of restaurant workers who opposed this initiative work at places with higher average checks so they received bigger tips than the average restaurant worker. And of course there were concerns with retaliation from management if workers did speak out in support of the measure. Who is right? I don’t know.

    My issue with repeal is the hypocrisy of DC leaders overturning a decision by the voters when all they do is complain when Congress overturns the laws the Council passes. As to the effects of the law, since it never went into effect we don’t know what the outcome would have been. So now they’ll probably have this fight all over again down the road.

    1. Sure, so there’d still be tipping at the “higher average check” places, and the money for the increased wages at the “lower average check” places would just come out of the deep, filled-with-dirty-profit pockets of the rich, fat moneybags*.

      And everybody lives happily ever after!!

      *-and by “rich, fat moneybags”, of course I mean “trying to rise a bit within the middle-class franchise operators”. Great blows against the empire there, stupids.

  15. LMAO!! This type of law is written by stupid lawmakers beholden to the SEIU who has conned them into thinking this is a great idea. First, anyone who has ever worked for tips will tell you that the $3.50 is irrelevant because their real income is tips and they make way more than $15. Typically, tipped employees, bartenders in particular, make $25-$35 an hour. When I was a bartender in a club, I made $400-500 a night in tips. That was split between two people. Our bar backs usually walked out with $250-300. At the time the tip rate was $2.10. Do you think I gave a crap about that money? The SEIU sold politicians this notion as a way to increase their ranks because they know low wage workers in industries like fast food have no idea about the industry actually operates. They readily accept that McDonalds is making millions and not paying them because they have no clue what a franchise is, how it operates or that the store they work in is not owned by McDonalds. They see the sign and think the company owns it.

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