06/18/2018

The Tipping Wars Come To DC

Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

This year, voters in the District of Columbia will be asked to decide the fate of a proposal called Initiative 77. This bill would phase out wages for restaurant and bar industry servers which are below minimum wage. The change would take place over seven years, with all servers earning a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2025. Of course, if you ask most of those workers, it will also phase out their tips as customers have to pay more for food and drinks while learning that the servers are no longer earning below scale. The unions are pushing mightily to pass this measure but they’re getting surprisingly little support from the actual workers it’s supposed to benefit. (WaPo)

In the District, where 2,267 restaurants employed more than 50,000 people as of 2016 — making them the third-largest private employers — a restaurant trade group is waging a fierce political battle to kill Initiative 77.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and nearly every other elected leader are opposed to it, along with — maybe surprisingly — many of the restaurant workers the ballot question is supposed to help. Those workers call the measure a threat to their livelihoods. They have organized on social media for the “Save Our Tips” campaign and handed diners campaign literature along with their checks.

Owners say the current system works: Restaurants with thin profit margins can survive while workers can earn more than the standard minimum wage.

If D.C. voters pass the measure, at least three things are likely to happen, according to restaurateurs and researchers. Some diners will still tip. Restaurant prices will rise, probably more than the 20 percent that diners normally tip. And some restaurants won’t survive the changeover to higher labor costs that come with a one-wage system.

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