Washington D.C. Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
|Not on ballot|
The chief organization behind the initiative is called the D.C. Working Families Coalition, which launched late in 2013, and includes many unions and labor organizations.
The organization announced its ballot initiative effort in November of 2013. The Coalition would need 23,000 valid signatures to qualify its initiative for the ballot. If this measure is approved, it would raise the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour, from the current $8.25 per hour, by 2017. It would also raise the minimum hourly base-wage of tipped workers from $2.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour.
The coalition behind the initiative is called D.C. Working Families and consists of:
- Local 25 of UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union;
- locals 32BJ and 1199 of the Service Employees International Union; and
- Local 657 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America
- Jews United for Justice
- Our D.C
"Can't Survive on $8.25": An Our DC video
Arguments in favor
The Rev. George Gilbert of Holy Trinity United Baptist: "We are the nation's capital, but we are becoming the capital of inequality. We have become a city that boasts about the amount of new residents ... while the folks who have been here are being thrown away."
Some of the most outspoken critics argue that this measure will be devastating to the local restaurant and bar industries, while not helping people in need. These opponents point to provisions in the proposed initiative that would apply the minimum wage to all hospitality and wait staff workers, not counting tips, as well as other minimum wage workers. Currently tipped workers are paid a base pay of a minimum of $2.77 per hour, with the rest of their compensation consisting of tips. The new initiative would require restaurant and bar owners to pay waiters, waitresses and bar tenders $8.75 per hour base pay, with tips on top of that. Opponents argue that the waiter and bar tender jobs are, in fact, very lucrative and that the initiative would be giving a large raise to employees that already make at least minimum wage, if not two or three times minimum wage. They say that this extra expense will disrupt the job market in the city, potentially destroy the great tradition of tipping and put many small, independent restaurants and bars in danger of closing down.
The City council unanimously approved its own minimum wage ordinance, raising the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour, a dollar lower than the proposed initiative would establish.
D.C. Working Families commissioned a poll of 606 voters in November of 2013, asking about support of a $12.50 per hour minimum wage and a tipped worker minimum wage of $8.75 per hour. Primary responses showed 74% in favor. When the opposing argument that a wage hike could likely hurt small businesses and some employees, especially young people of color, was presented, the support decreased, but only to 65%.
In a statement responding to the results of the polls, executive vice president of D.C. Working Families Delvone Michael said, "It's no surprise that powerful corporations want to pull the minimum wage proposal downward. And sadly, it's no surprise that some of our politicians are listening to them, instead of the people they represent who overwhelmingly support a minimum wage of $12.50 according to new polling. Luckily, next year, the people of the District will have a chance to make their voices heard."
- Washington Post, "D.C. Working Families coalition launches, targets minimum wage hike," October 30, 2013
- Aljazeera America, "Activists launch ballot initiative to raise DC minimum wage," November 19, 2014
- The DCist, "Coalition Kicks Off Effort For Minimum Wage Ballot Initiative," November 19, 2013
- Washington Blade, "Don’t be fooled by D.C. tipped wage ballot initiative," April 24, 2014
- Washington Post, "D.C. Council backs $11.50 minimum wage," December 3, 2013
- The DCist, "Poll: 74 Percent of Voters Support $12.50 Minimum Wage," November 26, 2013