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D.C. Council Repeals Initiative 77, Blocking Hikes in Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

The move prevents a new system that some worried would have dramatic consequences

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser And Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Hold News Conference On Protecting DC Local Laws
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson co-sponsored a bill to repeal hikes in minimum wage for tipped service workers back in July.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The D.C. Council passed the second of two mandatory votes today to repeal Initiative 77, a ballot measure approved by voters in June that would have established a higher minimum wage for service workers who rely on tips for the majority of their incomes. The council voted 8-5 to repeal the measure, the same count from in the first vote two weeks earlier.

Opponents to Initiative 77 included the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Under the proposed system, which was approved by 56 percent of voters this summer, the minimum wage for tipped service workers would have gradually risen from $3.89 an hour to the national standard ($12.50 this year) by 2026.

The repeal bill, Washington City Paper, reports, also contains provisions about implementing mandatory online sexual harassment training and a wage theft tip-line and creating a committee of industry professionals to advise the council.

Raising the minimum tipped wage, some restaurant owners and tipped workers have argued, would raise operating costs for small business, therefore raising prices, reducing incentive for customers to tip and minimizing the earning potential of workers such as waiters and bartenders. Critics of tipping argue that it reinforces misogyny, racism and classism.

In July, a seven-person majority block of the D.C. Council, led by chairman Phil Mendelson, introduced a co-sponsored bill to repeal the ballot measure just before a scheduled summer recess.

In January, restauranteur Ari Gejdenson told Eater D.C. he would explore opening new projects in Maryland rather than Washington if Initiative 77 passed.