Everyone seems to know that America’s tips-based system for compensating bar and restaurant staff is flawed, but how to fix it is less clear. Some restaurants have upped prices and done away with tipping—only to undo that policy later. And today comes another reversal: The Washington Post reports Washington, D.C.’s city council voted today to begin repealing Initiative 77, a voter-approved law that would have gradually raised minimum wage for servers and bartenders to $15 an hour by 2025.
That initiative passed just months ago, much to the consternation of restaurant owners who vowed to fight its implementation. They have an ally in Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who the Post reports pledged to sign repeal legislation. Currently, in D.C. as in many states, it’s legal to pay tipped employees less than the standard minimum wage (tipped minimum wage is $3.33 in D.C.), with the idea that tips make up the difference. At the time of its passage, Initiative 77 was hailed by labor groups as an historic step to lift women and minority restaurant workers out of poverty.
But restaurant owners and some fine-dining staff say the measure would have hurt the industry overall; some workers argued to lawmakers that they already earn more than minimum wage via gratuities and didn’t want the laws changed. D.C. Council heard their pleas: “If the law is a bad law, it should be amended or repealed.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,” chairman Phil Mendelson, who led the repeal charge, told the Post.
The repeal measure cleared an important first hurdle today with an 8-5 vote to advance it in Council, but is not yet the law of the land.