In July, DC voters passed One Fair Wage with 56 percent of the total vote, but in October, the City Council repealed this gradual increase in the subminimum tipped wage rate that would have guaranteed the full minimum wage to all workers by 2026. As a response, tipped workers, faith leaders, and labor allies filed for a referendum to reinstate the will of the voters. And while they submitted nearly 35,000 signatures on time—more than 10,000 needed to qualify the referendum for the ballot—the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington challenged the Board of Elections and for now, prevailed in court on technicalities related to the Board’s notifying the DC public about the referendum process. The Save Our Vote campaign will appeal the ruling that is rooted in a procedure completely outside of the referendum campaign’s control.
Time after time, voters reaffirm their support for One Fair Wage and yet their voices are being suppressed by those with money, power, and influence and by legislators who care more about corporate profits benefitting a few than people working in the lowest paid occupations. Through the whole process that led to Initiative 77 and the aftermath, one thing became clear: requiring employers to pay the full minimum wage with tips on top is a popular issue and has broad support from voters while politicians are behind in their understanding of the community needs. This fight won’t be over until DC tipped workers get the same minimum wage (with tips on top) as everybody else.