Contact: Dallas Donnell,, 215-870-7076

             Tim Rusch, 917-399-0236

DC Mayor Bowser Short-Changes Tipped Workers
Restaurant workers call for citywide minimum-wage raise to $15
to include all DC workers 

Washington, D.C. – As a popular ballot measure is poised to increase the minimum wage for all of DC’s workers, Mayor Muriel Bowser has decided to forego the will of the people with a woefully inadequate initiative of her own. The Mayor’s proposed bill to the DC Council to raise the citywide minimum wage for $15 an hour by 2020 would leave the tipped wage discrepancy in place, with tipped subminimum wage reaching $7.50 an hour by 2022.

“Mayor Bowser’s heart is in the right place but she’s completely out of sync with the people of DC on this proposal,” says Gaby Madriz, Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC (ROC-DC). “Our initiative calls for $15 for all. It’s really that simple. That means every single DC workers with no exceptions, and polls suggest that’s more popular than the mayor herself. If she can’t get the entire job done and establish one fair wage for all low-wage workers in DC, then Mayor Bowser should get out of the way and let the people act.”

Tipped workers, primarily restaurant workers, have endured an unending cycle of neglect from politicians who show more concern for paid lobbyists and corporate campaign donors than for the constituents whom they are elected to serve. That’s exactly why our organizations have come together, to deliver democracy to the people through a direct ballot measure to ensure that DC workers lead the charge in making One Fair Wage a reality on the East Coast.

The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers in DC is just $2.77 an hour.  “Along with DC Working Families, ROC-DC is leading a multi-stakeholder coalition of DC residents, workers, leaders, and activists to help the thousands of workers in DC caught in this poverty wage trap,” said Madriz.

ROC has launched a campaign to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers in cities and states across the nation. The campaign for One Fair Wage urges lawmakers to end the two-tiered minimum wage system that pays workers who customarily are paid by their employers as little as the federal rate of $2.13 per hour, also adopted by 17 states. Nationally, ROC has found that more than two-thirds of tipped workers are women. Mayor Bowser’s proposal, while increasing the minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped workers aims to lift tipped workers up to $7.50 by 2022 while all other workers would receive a minimum wage of $15.00 by 2020.

“Leaving out tipped workers means leaving out women,” according to Jessica Wynter Martin, a tipped worker who resides in Ward 7. “When both leading Democratic Presidential candidates, more than 80% of DC voters agree that it’s time to end slave wages — and seven states including California have done just that and seen their restaurant industries grow — what exactly is stopping Mayor Bowser from doing the right thing? Tipped workers and our families refuse to settle for the crumbs of Mayor Bowser’s ‘reform.’”

Delvone Michael of DC Working Families and the co-chair of DC for $15, remarked, “We are proud to welcome the Mayor to the growing movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 for DC’s hard working families. At the same time, we are disappointed that she has decided to not fully include tipped workers in her proposal. No one who works full time, especially tipped workers, should be forced to live in poverty. This proposal is a step in the right direction but it does not get us to where we need to be. That’s why DC Working Families remains as committed as ever to putting a $15 minimum wage on the ballot so DC voters, not lobbyists or political insiders, can decide this important issue.”

The DC for $15 coalition seeks to add a question to the November 2016 general election ballot that would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 with a more gradual phase-in for tipped workers to reach $15 per hour by 2024.

The DC ballot measure is also similar to a bill that was just introduced this morning in nearby Baltimore to increase the city minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers — currently at the Maryland rate of $3.63 per hour — to $15 per hour by 2025 and eliminate the two-tiered wage system thereafter.


About Restaurant Opportunities Centers United –

Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocate Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News), ROC United has 18,000 worker-members, 200 restaurant employer members, and several thousand consumer members in 15 states in the U.S., winning 15 worker-led campaigns, recovering $10 million in stolen tips and wages.