This November we will pass the "District of Columbia Tip Credit Elimination Act of 2021" aka Initiative 82, which will eliminate the sub-minimum tipped wage of $5.35 per hour, and ensure all tipped workers receive DC's full minimum wage of at least $16.10 plus tips on top! Please sign up to volunteer with the DC Committee to Build a Better Restaurant Industry.

Press Release: Attorney General Karl Racine and the General Counsel of the DC Council Agree: New Voter Initiative Can Go Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Tuesday, July 20, 2021

PRESS CONTACT: Nikolas Schiller, 202-643-3878
Press@BetterRestaurantsDC.org

Attorney General Karl Racine and the General Counsel of the DC Council Agree: New Voter Initiative Can Go Forward

DC Board of Elections Public Hearing Postponed to August 26

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the DC Committee to Build a Better Restaurant Industry (DCCBRI) is pleased to announce it received supportive legal opinions concerning the “District of Columbia Full Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers Amendment Act of 2022,” which should ease the initiative  forward to the signature gathering phase this fall after a DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) public hearing on Thursday, August 26, 2021. The opinions can be read at BetterRestaurantsDC.org.

“DC election law requires that after a ballot initiative is submitted to the DC Board of Elections their General Counsel must seek the opinions of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia and the General Counsel of the Council of District of Columbia concerning whether the initiative is proper subject matter before it can move forward to the signature collection phase,” says attorney Joseph Sandler, whose firm, Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, drafted the initiative on behalf of former restaurant workers leading the effort.

Ballot initiatives are prohibited from amending the DC Home Rule Charter, conflicting with the U.S. Constitution, violate the DC Human Rights Act, appropriate funds, negate or limit a budgetary act of the DC Council, and must be properly filed with the DCBOE and the DC Office of Campaign Finance. Although there have been over 81 voter initiatives submitted to the DCBOE since 1979, most were not deemed to be proper subject matter and were unable to proceed.

“We are pleased that Attorney General Karl Racine and General Counsel Nicole Streeter agreed that our initiative is proper subject matter and voters of the District of Columbia will have the opportunity to weigh in again on this important issue at the upcoming public hearing,” says Aniyah Vines, Chairwoman of the committee. “Tipped workers deserve a full wage, not one that is subsidized by the whims of customers, and this initiative will go a long way in fixing this injustice.”

Now that the opinions have been issued, the next step for the new initiative is for the DCBOE to hold the public hearing, which will now take place on Thursday, August 26. Originally scheduled for August 4th, the public hearing has been moved to the last Thursday in August. The public is encouraged to sign up to testify and provide their testimony on why the initiative should go forward.

After the initiative is deemed proper subject matter at the hearing by a vote of the 3-member Board of Elections, the DCBOE will prepare the official petition for circulation and upon issuance the campaign will have 180 days to collect approximately 5% or 26,000 signatures from registered DC voters in order to place the measure on the June 2022 Primary Election ballot. If approved by 50% or more of voters, the “District of Columbia Full Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers Amendment Act of 2022” would have to withstand Congressional review and possible DC Council amendments before being implemented. As proposed, tipped workers would see their first pay raise of $1 in January 2023 and $2 annually until 2027, when the minimum wage will be at least $15.20 an hour (indexed to inflation), plus tips on top. The measure does not impact tipping or tip sharing across a business that pays the full minimum wage which is already the law in Washington, DC.

If approved by DC voters in 2022, the new ballot initiative would gradually phase out the sub-minimum base wage tipped workers currently receive and raise it to the same minimum wage non-tipped workers get, with tips on top.  As of July 1st, the current sub-minimum wage in DC is $5.05 an hour and if a tipped worker does not make the prevailing minimum wage of $15.20 an hour, the employer is supposed to make up the difference. However, this system is not transparent and allows for wage theft, discrimination, and puts workers’ livelihoods in the hands of the customer. Worse, during the pandemic, tipped workers saw less unemployment benefits because their income was often tied to unclaimed cash tips. Since union membership in the service sector is very low, public input on the way the service industry operates is needed to build a better and more just for the majority of service workplace.

The new ballot initiative is being proposed by a restaurant worker who lost their job during the pandemic and is in partnership with experienced DC ballot initiative activists who supported previous efforts to raise DC’s minimum wage, including Initiatives 76 and 77.

The initiative text and more information on the new campaign can be found online at BetterRestaurantsDC.org

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Click here to download a PDF of this press release


+ Click here to download a PDF of the opinion from the Office of the Attorney General
+ Click here to download a PDF of the opinion from the General Counsel of the Council of the District of Columbia

Attend the Subject Matter Hearing at the DC Board of Elections (8/26/21)

Please make plans to attend or testify!

Click here to RSVP on Facebook!


DC BOARD OF ELECTIONS

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
RECEIPT AND INTENT TO REVIEW INITIATIVE MEASURE

The Board of Elections shall consider in a public hearing whether the proposed measure, the “DC Full Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers Amendment Act of 2022,” is a proper subject matter for initiative at the Board’s regular meeting on Thursday, August 26, 2021 at 10:30 a.m., at 1015 Half Street SE, Suite 750, Washington DC 20003.

In making a subject matter determination, the Board does not consider the merits of a proposed measure. Instead, it may consider only whether the proposed measure meets the subject matter requirements set forth in District of Columbia law. Specifically, the Board must reject the proposed measure if it determines that:

  • The measure conflicts with or seeks to amend the Title IV of the DC Home Rule Act (“the District Charter”);
  • The measure conflicts with the U.S. Constitution;
  • The measure has not been properly filed;
  • The verified statement of contributions (the measure committee’s statement of organization and report of receipts and expenditures) was not timely filed;
  • The measure would authorize discrimination in violation of the DC Human Rights Act;
  • The measure would negate or limit a budgetary act of the DC Council; or
  • The measure would appropriate funds

Those who wish to testify at the hearing on the propriety of the proposed measure in light of the above-referenced criteria should contact the Board’s Office of the General Counsel at 202-727-2194 or ogc@dcboe.org and provide their name, address, telephone number, and name of the organization represented (if any) by no later than Friday, July 30, 2021, at 4:00 p.m.. Any written testimony or memoranda should be submitted for the record to the Board’s Office of the General Counsel, 1015 Half Street SE, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20003 or at ogc@dcboe.org by that date and time as well. Individuals shall be permitted a maximum of three minutes for oral presentations. Representatives of organizations shall be permitted a maximum of five minutes for oral presentations.


Click here to download the Public Notice


Press Release: A Better Restaurant Industry is Possible!

The DC Committee to Build a Better Restaurant Industry

PRESS CONTACT: Nikolas Schiller, 202-643-3878
Press@BetterRestaurantsDC.org

A Better Restaurant Industry is Possible!

New DC Committee Forms to Build A Better Restaurant Industry by Passing Voter Initiative to Improve Wages and Competitiveness

WASHINGTON, DC – As DC’s restaurants, hotels, hair salons, and parking lots experience a post-pandemic boom, many laid off tipped service workers are not returning to their jobs because they don’t want to work for unfair wages with little job security or pay dignity. Now a group of service workers, concerned citizens, and business allies are launching the DC Committee to Build a Better Restaurant Industry with their submission of the “District of Columbia Full Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers Amendment Act of 2022” to the DC Board of Elections (DCBOE).

If approved by DC voters in 2022, the new ballot initiative would gradually phase out the sub-minimum base wage tipped workers currently receive and raise it to the same minimum wage non-tipped workers get, with tips on top. As of July 1st, the current sub-minimum wage in DC is $5.05 an hour and if a tipped worker does not make the prevailing minimum wage of $15.20 an hour, the employer is supposed to make up the difference. However, this system is not transparent and allows for wage theft, discrimination, and puts workers’ livelihoods in the hands of the customer. Worse, during the pandemic, tipped workers saw less unemployment benefits because their income was often tied to unclaimed cash tips. Since union membership in the service sector is very low, public input on the way the service industry operates is needed to build a better and more just workplace.

The new ballot initiative is being proposed by a restaurant worker who lost their job during the pandemic and is in partnership with experienced DC ballot initiative activists who supported previous efforts to raise DC’s minimum wage, including Initiatives 76 and 77.

Initiative Proposer Ryan O’Leary has been a resident of Washington, DC for 10 years and has worked in the restaurant industry as a server. “After being laid off in the wake of the pandemic, I realized I could no longer shrug off the disrespect I experienced and witnessed while working for tips,” says O’Leary, adding “I was forced to confront how precarious our positions in the service economy truly were, how disposable we are considered to be, and how unjustly we were treated by an industry with a criminally low unionization rate, rampant wage theft, and of course, the indignity of being paid a subminimum wage.”

The Chairwoman of the new DC effort to build a better restaurant industry is Howard University Senior Aniyah Vines. Her experience in the service sector motivated her to speak out recently at a rally for higher wages in Chinatown. “I had to look for a job to help pay my tuition upon arriving in Washington, DC in 2018 to receive a higher education at Howard University. I’ve engaged people who feel powerless to demand more, but in DC – with the public’s support – I believe we can restore dignity in work by paying fair wages. I know too many individuals who feel that they have no other choice but to withstand workplace harassment to hustle for tips because they desperately need the money. Our fight is for those who are not able to fight for themselves. We are fighting for essential workers to receive an essential wage, while improving the overall experience in the workplace by putting tips on top of their wages, where they belong.”

O’Leary and Vines co-lead the DC chapter of One Fair Wage, a national organization of 250,000 service workers dedicated to ending subminimum wages and making the service sector more sustainable for all. Together with RAISE, a national association of 1000 ‘high road’ restaurant owners committed to increased race and gender equity in the restaurant industry, One Fair Wage is supporting the new DC ballot measure in alignment with their work co-leading efforts to pass the federal Raise the Wage Act, which has been sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott in the House and Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Senate and proposes to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and end the subminimum wage for tipped workers, workers with disabilities, and youth. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and President Biden have all publicly championed the Raise the Wage Act generally and ending the subminimum wage for tipped workers specifically, with President Biden making it a part of his Executive Order for federally contracted workers and Sen Schumer recently headlining a ‘Server for an Hour’ event in NY to underscore the need to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers.

The next step for the new initiative is for the DCBOE to consider if it is proper subject matter, which will take place within the next two months. When approved by the DCBOE for petition circulation, the campaign committee will have 180 days to collect approximately 26,000 valid signatures from DC voters by March 2022 in order to place the measure on the June 2022 Primary Election ballot. If approved by voters, the “District of Columbia Full Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers Amendment Act of 2022” would have to withstand Congressional review and possible DC Council amendments before being implemented. As proposed, tipped workers would see their first pay raise of $1 in January 2023 and $2 annually until 2027, when the minimum wage will be at least $15.20 an hour (indexed to inflation), plus tips on top.

In the fall of 2018, after being approved by a 11.48% margin (55.74% voted yes) by DC voters in the June primary election, the DC Council voted to overturn Initiative 77, which also slowly phased out the sub-minimum wage. Then, seeking to stop the DC Council from overturning the legislation, “Save Our Vote” advocates collected 35,000 signatures to allow voters to reverse the DC Council decision through a referendum. On the same day the signatures were submitted to the DCBOE to place the question on the ballot, a DC Superior Court Judge intervened and declared DCBOE mishandled the referendum. Years later, the COVID pandemic further highlighted the problems associated with the sub-minimum wage leading to this new effort, which includes outreach to DC Council members to pledge to respect the outcome of the vote.

Leaders of the new effort feel that the composition of the new DC Council and the dramatic change in support among restaurant workers and employers for a full wage for tipped workers both bode well for the successful passage and implementation of the ballot measure in 2022. “A majority of the new Council supports the ballot measure and will not vote to overturn it. But more importantly, restaurant workers have now indicated that they are no longer willing to return to work in restaurants without a full, stable wage from their employer with tips on top – meaning restaurant owners cannot fully reopen DC restaurants without raising wages, and that’s led to a lot of DC restaurant owners being more supportive of policy change to create a level playing field. Policy change is essential to ensure all boats rise together and we can enjoy the DC restaurant industry at the scale we enjoyed it pre-pandemic,” said Adam Eidinger, who is Treasurer for the new campaign committee. A recent report by the organization One Fair Wage based on 3000 surveys of restaurant workers showed that 53% are considering leaving their restaurant jobs; 76% say it’s due to low wages and tips, and 78% say they would only return to work in restaurants if given a stable, livable wage by their employer with tips on top.

The initiative text and more information on the new campaign can be found online at BetterRestaurantsDC.org

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Click here to download a PDF of this press release