In less than a week, voters in Washington, D.C., will settle a national debate over tipping. The District’s upcoming primary election includes a ballot measure called Initiative 77, a policy to gradually raise the minimum wage that tipped workers receive. Two national restaurant groups are turning D.C. into a proxy war over a wide-reaching and politically fraught norm: the tip.
In one corner: One Fair Wage, the campaign to raise the base pay that waiters, bartenders, and other tipped workers earn in the District. The pro-77 side is almost entirely the work of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), a national nonprofit advocacy organization. If 77 passes, employers will pay a single minimum wage throughout the city. No more tiers. Currently, tipped-wage workers can make a lot more (or a lot less) than the regular minimum wage.