Initiative 82, which the DC Board of Elections added in the November ballot earlier this month, proposes a phased increase in the city’s minimum tip salary for service sector jobs like waiters and bartenders over the next five years to 2027. Activists supporting Initiative 82 said the proposal is a game-changer for employed students working in the service sector, as increased wages would provide more consistent and predictable wages for employees. who depend on unreliable tips.
The DC Council reversed similar legislation in 2018 when it repealed Initiative 77, a proposal passed by just over half of district voters in June 2018.
Ryan O’Leary – the chairman of the DC Committee to Build A Better Restaurant Industry, the organization that backs the initiative – who proposed Initiative 82 to the DC Council, said council members had ‘thwarted’ efforts underway to raise the minimum wage.
The Elections Office requires ballot initiatives will receive support from 5% of voters citywide and 5% from five of the district’s eight wards.
O’Leary said the committee foreseen to take the lead in the June primary, but the bill was delayed after the Council recut rooms 7 and 8 at the beginning of January. He said the board of elections ordered the committee to restart the process of collecting signatures in those wards after the redistricting and ordered them to start from scratch to ensure support for the bill was certifiable.
“It needs to be on the ballot as soon as possible, and it needs to become law immediately after,” O’Leary said. “I’m just very grateful that this time we have the votes on our side and in Council, and hopefully we will have the votes of the President and the Mayor in the general election.”
O’Leary said Initiative 82 will help students working in the service industry because employees will receive higher hourly rates in addition to the tips they receive from customers, creating a more consistent paycheck for students. waiters who depend on tips on busy days. He said this financial insurance would allow employees to budget and save for accommodate the high cost of living in the district instead of living quarter to quarter.
“If I got a paycheck on top of going to college every night with tips, I’d be in a better place now than I am right now,” O’Leary said. “I would have had more money, I could have saved money in college, so I wasn’t starting quite fresh.”
Zoe Carver, a freshman majoring in international affairs and peace studies who works at Tatte in the West End, said her earnings were unpredictable while relying on tips, which vary depending on the location. time of his shift. She said that because more customers come in during her morning shifts, a later shift means she’ll make $5-10 less per hour.
“Working later than previous shifts, you get paid less,” Carver said. “Because it’s a bakery, everyone comes in the morning. Depending on how random you are programmed, it depends on how much money you win.
Carver said the proposed pay rise would ease financial pressure for student workers on regular pay. She said the low pay and lack of tips on slow days, combined with the long hours, made it a “stressful” environment for her.
“It’s a lot of work and not a lot of appreciation at all,” Carver said. “Just rude customers, long hours. I’m often scheduled for five-hour shifts, which isn’t that long, but they do it on purpose. Because if it’s five o’clock, you don’t have a break all the time.
Ian Cook, a junior majoring in international affairs and anthropology, said he made $5 an hour without tip when he worked as a waiter at Pinstripes, an Italian restaurant in Georgetown with a bowling alley and bocce ball that many students visit at night.
Cook said his managers sometimes assigned him day shifts where he received little or no tip due to a lack of customers, while he received more than $300 in tips on busier night shifts. He said the hourly wage he received without tips did not look like fair compensation for the time he worked during the day.
“You’re still working, you’re doing side work, you’re rolling silverware, making sure everything is stocked up,” Cook said. “That job alone is definitely worth more than the $5 an hour restaurants pay.”
Cook said the combination of slow shifts and “tipping,” where servers distribute their tips to the rest of the service staff at the end of each shift, sometimes left him paying out of pocket to compensate other employees. if he didn’t. receive enough tips. He said sometimes his hourly pay was little or nothing, even on nights with generous tip earnings.
“Sometimes as a result you would walk away with no money,” Cook said. “And sometimes, even though you walk away with a lot of money, your paycheck ends up being $0. So you can’t really rely on that.