NO2DC77 – Listen to DC Tipped Workers: Vote NO on Initiative 77 2018-05-08T22:29:53+00:00

D.C. Nightlife and Hospitality Tipped Workers Are Joining Together

with co-workers and customers to preserve the tip-wage system at bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment venues to protect tipped employee livelihoods and incomes and support D.C.’s vibrant nighttime economy!

Know the Facts


Know the Facts

How the Tip-Wage System Works – and Works Well for Workers

Don’t be misled by the false claims of the national group pushing Initiative 77

The wording of Initiative 77 misleads voters and creates confusion. Don’t let them trick you: The real purpose and effect is to outlaw the tip-wage system. But you might not realize that when reading the ballot. The measure purports to raise the D.C. minimum wage to $15 by 2020 – but that is already local law, legislatively-enacted in 2016. It’s currently being phased-in with continuing raises in each subsequent year equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

There is only one D.C. minimum wage, and it applies equally to both tipped and non-tipped employees working at all businesses in the District. There is no such thing as a lower “sub-minimum-wage” – but the group behind Initiative 77 is trying to trick you into thinking there is.

Tipped workers earn both a tip-base-wage and customer tips. If earnings don’t equal or exceed the minimum wage, employers are legally required to make up the difference for any pay period. The amount between the tip-base-wage and the minimum wage is called the tip credit.

The current tip-wage system ensures that servers and bartenders earn good incomes and retain great earning potential. It is extremely rare for tipped employee earnings not to exceed, by a large amount, the D.C. minimum wage – currently $12.50/hr. and rising to $15 by July 2020. Tipped workers typically earn $25-to-$40-and-more an hour, including the tip-base-wage (currently $3.33/hr. and rising to $5 by July 2020). Both amounts will continue to rise each following year by the increase in the area cost-of-living.

Although it is highly unusual for tipped workers to earn less than minimum wage, employers must file quarterly reports with the District government specifying the wages of all employees – including those earning tips – to certify that each employee has earned at least the minimum wage. In fact, D.C. nightlife and hospitality businesses pushed to make this the law, and workers can file any wage infraction with the city to prompt payment enforcement.

What’s at Stake?

What will change if Initiative 77 becomes law?

The ballot measure would outlaw the tip-wage system and force nightlife and hospitality establishments to convert tipped staff to hourly-wage employees.

Initiative 77 threatens to up-end the economic foundation of D.C.’s signature hometown hospitality and nationally recognized local social amenities – and endangers the professional livelihoods and good incomes of tipped employees.

All nightlife and hospitality workers will lose – both tipped employees and hourly-wage staff – along with bar, restaurant, and nightclub patrons.

Tipped nightlife and hospitality employees will earn less money – that’s why they’re asking all D.C. registered voters to go to the polls and cast a ‘No’ vote on June 19. Plus, hourly-wage employees at D.C. restaurants, bars, and nightclubs also know that their wages will stagnate if venue operators are required to shift extremely thin-margin revenues to pay tipped staff the full minimum wage. Consumers will confront skyrocketing menu prices for food and drink, shrinking their ability to dine-out and socialize over drinks with neighbors, friends, and visiting guests.

What will happen if the anti-tipping group wins?

The real-world result in the tiny number of places that have radically altered the economic structure of local bar and restaurant establishments provide the warnings:

  • Actual incomes of tipped employees decline, for many by large amounts
  • Tip earnings plummet or end as patrons discontinue tipping or tip less when prices escalate and workers are converted to hourly-wage employees or establishments eliminate tipping 
  • Employers abolish tipping to compensate customers for higher prices by switching to a “service-included” model to pay for huge new hourly wage costs
  • Restaurants and bars are forced to cut jobs, reduce shifts, and shorten shift hours – lowering wages for all employees, not just tipped staff
  • Customer service declines and negatively affects the hospitality experience
  • Fewer staff causes a heavier workload strain on remaining workers
  • Hospitality professionals quit their jobs to seek work in surrounding tip-wage jurisdictions or leave their positions for employment in other occupations
  • Employment opportunities are diminished for first-job seekers and those seeking entry-level employment, as well as part-time work options for those supplementing incomes or engaged in creative artistic endeavors and independent professional careers
  • Venues shift to technology alternatives to replace kitchen and service staff positions
  • Restaurants and bars close due to huge new operating costs that exceed revenue, resulting from less frequent customer visits and reduced patron purchases due to soaring consumer prices – and new venues don’t open
  • A primary business sector, major employer, and leading economic engine is harmed, hurting the overall local economy

Who wants to “topple the tray” and “turnover the bar” on tipping?

The national political group financing Initiative 77 and pushing for this radical local change has a hidden goal.

They sometimes even admit it.

They want to end tipping.

The national director of the controversial organization pushing the ballot question, ROC United (“Restaurant Opportunities Center”), has publicly stated that “the system of tipping needs to go” – but the group continues to mislead voters about their real intentions.

They admit that workers will lose jobs.

The group has admitted, based on what has happened in the very few places that have outlawed the tip-wage system, that tipped worker jobs will be lost.

They say their target is national corporate chains.

“We’re talking about Denny’s, and IHOP, and Applebee’s, largely,” they claim – refusing to acknowledge that 96% of D.C.’s more than 1,700 nightlife and hospitality establishments are locally owned-and-operated independent small businesses.

Voters should listen to local tipped workers, not a national political special-interest group

An overwhelmingly massive majority of tip-earning nightlife and hospitality employees at D.C. bars, restaurants, and nightclubs strongly support the current tip-wage system. Tipped workers don’t want anyone trying to “fix” their jobs. Ask your bartender or server – they’ll tell you they make good wages and their jobs aren’t “broken” – and they’re tired of an outside anti-tipping group insulting them and our city’s robust, responsible, and recognized community hospitality.

That’s simply a fact.

Due to the huge and unified outpouring of local tipped workers urging elected city officials to preserve the tip-wage system, the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser acted unanimously in 2016 to keep it in place. Tipped employees are now asking D.C. voters to support them, their jobs, their professional careers, and their good incomes.

Last year, after tipped worker incomes fell so far and fast following passage of a similar ballot initiative in Maine, thousands of tipped employees successfully persuaded the state legislature to restore the tip credit wage system on a broadly bipartisan basis.

Despite the arguments of those pushing the ballot initiative, this is not a #MeToo moment – or solution. Tipping is not the cause of sexual harassment or racial discrimination by customers, and shifting tipped workers to an hourly-wage income model won’t magically eliminate either. These are issues that all types of businesses confront, and the hospitality community has been exemplary in becoming a leader in working to ensure safe workplace environments for all staff.

A solitary national special-interest political group refuses to listen to the clear and consistent voice of a vast and overwhelming majority of tipped workers at D.C. bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment venues. This controversial and outsider political group wants you to ignore what tipped workers want. Don’t let them do it.

After all, it’s the professional livelihoods and good incomes of tipped workers that are at stake.

Vote NO on Initiative 77 on June 19

Tipped employees at D.C. bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment venues are joining with local nightlife and hospitality hourly-wage staff, managers and operators, and community supporters and patrons to urge all D.C. residents to vote NO.

All D.C. registered voters can vote on Initiative 77 during the District’s primary election – even if not registered with a political party.

Questions or comments? Contact Us