The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Washington, D.C.:
Initiative 77

Jul 23, 2018

D.C. voters approved Initiative 77. This measure increases the minimum wage for servers, bartenders and other tipped employees. It will mean tipped workers no longer have to depend so much on tips for their income.

Restaurant owners and other businesses made a huge fuss. They paraded their most well-paid, highest-tipped “wait staff” out and pitted them against lower-paid waitresses and waiters. They used these workers to urge voters to vote “No” for Initiative 77, claiming it would hurt workers.

D.C., like most states and the federal government, has a two-tier minimum-wage system. The standard minimum wage in D.C. is $12.50 an hour. But restaurants, bars and other businesses pay tipped workers only $3.33 an hour, not counting tips. If tips fall short of the $12.50 minimum, the bosses are supposed to make up the difference.

Initiative 77 slowly phases out the $3.33 “tipped wage” over eight years until employers pay the same standard minimum wage by 2025. The standard minimum wage in D.C. is already set to increase to $15 an hour by 2020 and automatically rise with inflation every following year.

All the bosses’ propaganda made it seem that voting “yes” would be catastrophic for tipped workers. In fact, the experience of workers in the seven states without this sub-minimum “tipped wage” (also known as “One Fair Wage” states) shows the opposite is true.

Analysis of data shows that tipped workers in states with a tip sub-minimum wage, experience poverty at twice the rate of non-tipped workers. In “One Fair Wage” states, tipped workers experience poverty rates closer to non-tipped workers.

No surprise the restaurant bosses lied. The real problem with this measure is that it will take eight long years to bring the wages up.