ROC Has 8 Days to Resurrect Tipped Worker Minimum Wage Issue for 2019 Ballot
by Larry Janezich
“Save Our Vote” – organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) – launched their effort to resurrect the tipped worker minimum wage issue and put the question back on the ballot in 2019. To do so, they must collect roughly 25,000 valid signatures from registered DC voters by Thursday, December 13. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) is a not-for-profit organization and worker center whose mission is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low wage restaurant workforce. This morning, three signature collectors were working the Eastern Market Metro Plaza area, one on the Plaza, one in front of Trader Joe’s, and one in front of Le Pain Quotidian.
Voters approved the original Initiative 77 by a solid majority of 56% last June. Initiative 77 would have eliminated the tipped minimum wage of (currently $3.89 an hour) and create a single minimum wage for everyone rather than depending on tips to make up the difference or payments from the employer if they do not.
Under pressure from the restaurant lobby, the DC City Council, guided by chair and At Large member Phil Mendehlson, repealed the results of that vote in October. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen voted against the repeal.
This latest signature effort amounts to an attempt to place the question of whether to “repeal the repeal” before DC voters. “Save Our Vote” DC hopes to attract support from voters who agreed with the original ballot initiative, as well as those who object to the DC City Council’s repeal. That action by the Council threatens the validity of an initiative process. In recent years, initiatives have been used to alter drug policy, the process by which DC’s Attorney General is selected, and reinforce DC’s desire for budget autonomy.
Initially “Save Our Vote” hoped to secure petitions from the DC Board of Elections and begin collecting signatures last week, but a challenge from the restaurant industry (represented by frequent restaurant industry mouthpiece attorney Andrew Kline) delayed that action by over a week. In an emergency meeting held Tuesday night, the DC Board of Elections ordered the petitions after a preliminary hearing by the DC District Court cleared the way for the petitioning process to begin. A second hearing on the lawsuit next week could affect the validity of the effort when has been allowed to proceed on a provisional basis.