Georgetown Really Doesn’t Want to Change Tipped Wage

Photo by torbakhopper.

Tuesday the city held its primary elections, but also on the ballot was Initiative 77. The voter initiative would change the way tipped employees are paid by the employer. Right now they can be paid as little as $3.33 per hour, and the rest of their wages are expected to be paid via tips. Theoretically if an employer doesn’t make it up to the normal minimum wage (which is $12.50/hour right now in DC) the restaurant is supposed to supplement their wages to meet that. The initiative would scrap that system and say that once fully implemented over eight years, employers must pay their employees the minimum wage period. They can continue to collect tips on top of that, but the employer no longer gets to credit that against what it owes its employees.

Despite a vociferous campaign by restauranteurs and many tipped employees themselves, the initiative passed 55% to 45%. (It won’t necessarily become law, as the Council can simply overrule the initiative, and most of the councilmembers have already come out against it).

The distribution of “No” votes, was fairly striking (image from Citylab):


The green on the heat map shows intensity of “Yes” votes and the purple is “No”. If you know your DC geography, what stands out for the areas with heavier “No” votes is that they tend to be in richer neighborhoods. And no where was the “No” vote more skewed than in the East Village of Georgetown, where “No” won 64% to 36%. (The west village also voted “No” but by a slimmer margin: 53% to 47%)

Overall Georgetown voted “No” 59% to 41%. (Of course as the debate moves forward, it’s probably not in the interests of the anti-77 folks that their position is so popular in tony neighborhoods like Georgetown.)

One other thing GM will note, prior to the election, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans told WAMU:

“I represent half of the restaurants in the city. There’s not a restaurant I go to where both the head of the restaurant and all the waiters don’t surround me and say, ‘Please don’t let this go into effect,’” said Evans in an interview. “In listening to my constituents, I haven’t found anybody who supports the thing.”

It sounds like he has the pulse on his immediate neighbors in east Georgetown! But the overall vote for the initiative in Ward 2 was almost exactly split (it was 3,771 to 3,748). That’s half the ward that Jack apparently doesn’t listen to!

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