For Immediate ReleaseMay 26, 2016
Contact: Molly Haigh, 907-750-1999mollyhaigh@gmail.com

DC for $15 and Supporters Fight to Include Tipped Workers in Mayor’s Minimum Wage Proposal

Low-Wage Workers, Tipped Employees, Business Owners and Advocates Urge Mayor, Council to Include Tipped Workers 

Today’s first DC Council hearing on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15/ hour was packed with supporters and critics. DC for $15 advocates were out in force, urging the mayor and council to go further in their proposal and not leave out tipped workers. While both the Mayor’s proposal and the ballot measure would increase the wage to $15, the initiative alone would eliminate the tipped penalty, creating one fair minimum wage for all workers.

The Mayor’s proposal would only raise the tipped wage to 50 percent of the full minimum wage, which according to a recent report, would “leave behind a significant number of low-wage workers—namely, the nearly 29,000 workers in D.C. that work in predominantly tipped occupations.” These same workers “experience poverty at nearly twice the rate of all D.C. workers.”

“The DC Council shouldn’t force tipped workers to live in poverty for the sake of political compromise,” said Delvone Michael, Executive Director of DC Working Families Party. “DC richest residents are only getting richer, and meanwhile the rest of us are struggling to survive — that has to change, and it starts with $15/ hour for ALL workers.”

“We’ve heard the DC Restaurant Association cry wolf one too many times– put simply, their lies about the difficulty of paying hard workers a decent wage have no place here. When you work hard, you shouldn’t have to choose between paying rent and getting groceries — and anyone who wants to force DC workers to do that should be ashamed.”

While recognizing it is a step in the right direction, supporters of the ballot initiative urged the Mayor and the Council to fully include tipped workers in their proposal and to do more for low-wage workers in general. “We applaud Mayor Bowser for taking the lead on legislation that helps workers take a big step forward along the pathway out of poverty. We urge the Council to quickly pass a strong minimum wage bill and in addition, we are counting on the Council to further create good jobs for working families by passing a strong paid family leave, fair scheduling and full-time hours legislation,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras.

As the Mayor’s proposal begins to work its way through the Council, DC Working Families and the Restaurant Opportunities Center, co-chairs of the DC for $15 campaign, are gathering signatures to put their proposal on the ballot in November. The DC Board of Elections requires supporters to collect 22,000 signatures from registered DC voters. Advocates have collected more than half of the signatures they need and are on track to meet the July 11 deadline to qualify for the ballot. They are canvassing daily.

This is the third time in recent months that legislation has been proposed or enacted to raise the minimum wage in the face of highly popular ballot initiatives. California enacted a $15 minimum wage in response to a ballot initiative there. Oregon enacted a regional minimum wage of $14.75 in Portland and $12.50 to $13.50 in other areas after pressure from organized ballot initiative campaigns.

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DC for $15 is a broad and diverse coalition of working people, community organizations, faith leaders, labor unions, and small business owners who believe that hard work deserves fair pay and that the nation’s capital should not be the capital of inequality. It is co-chaired by DC Working Families and the Restaurant Opportunities Center DC.