The D.C. tipped-wage initiative
Ahh. With fall just around the corner, what better way to introduce a season-opening show titled B 22-913 Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act of 2018 and starring the same Democratic lawmakers who take longer summer breaks than most workers are allowed?
The director of the show, which airs Monday, is D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and it’s not clear whether Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda will again be on hand, as she was over the summer trying to galvanize support for Initiative 77.
The initiative, approved 55 percent to 45 percent by voters nearly three months ago, calls for the city to mandate that the D.C. minimum wage is applied to all hourly workers, including waitresses, barkeeps and table bussers.
Currently, restaurant owners can offer such workers a base hourly wage of $3.89, and their tips help to the close minimum-wage gap. But if tips fail to lift a worker to the standard minimum wage, restaurant owners must bridge the pay gap.
The current minimum wage is $13.25 and is expected to rise to $15 by 2020.
If you find servers rejecting your tips, fine. They must be like Jane Fonda, who earned her millions by negotiating her contracts with filmmakers before her movie even hits a theater near you. That certainly explains why she can afford to jet around the country telling restaurant owners how they should spend their money.
Besides, bartenders and waiters are free to learn a trade and, say, get a plumbing license so they can dictate their own hourly wages, which can bring in as little as $27,000 a year and as much as six figures. Not bad for unclogging drains or removing miniature Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the basement toilet.
Such skill-based jobs are based as much on customer service as the waitress who knows the difference between eggs over easy and sunnyside side up.
Listen, the council considering to repeal Initiative 77 could be a smart move. First of all, the initiative takes pocket money i.e., tips away from people who have earned it.
Second, the people who work in this foodie town know going in what their wages will be.
Third, D.C. restaurant workers likely could take much of the proposed wage increase across the border into Maryland and Virginia.
Fourth, if restaurant owners are forced to pay higher wages to such workers as barkeeps, the owners are going to pass those costs onto you. (No more $4 craft beers and $5 all-you-can-eat wings at happy hour.)
And here’s something else to consider, as PR exec Rick Berman pointed out in a Washington Times op-ed this week: “The public and the D.C. Council should take great comfort in supporting the current payment system for tipped employees. But don’t take my word for it; next time you’re at a restaurant, ask your server if they would like to trade tipping for a fixed minimum wage.”
The council’s hearing on Monday is going to be a doozy, with lobbyists, unions and wage earners (and I wouldn’t leave immigration activists off the list) prepared to line up to testify. More than 140 folks already have signed up, and Mr. Mendelson’s office has warned: Be prepared to testify when your name is called or sorry, Charlie.
Seven of 13 council members back the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment, and Mayor Muriel Bowser has not thrown down a veto gauntlet.
The council has overruled voter initiatives before. In 2002 council members unanimously exempted themselves from certain D.C. parking rules, privileges previously reserved for members of Congress. There was a big outcry then, and trust me when I say, as someone who lives, works and plays in the city, members flout the law. The council also repealed a 1994 term-limits initiative.
Councilmembers wouldn’t be hypocrites with repealing the tipped-wage initiative, though. It, too, is their legislative prerogative and it’s not self-serving.
Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.