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The Fight to Restore Initiative 77 Gets Organized

A group of activists is announcing their bid to restore a higher minimum wage for tipped workers in D.C.

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Reverend Graylan Hagler, shown here during a roundtable discussion in which he argued to change the name of the Washington Redskins, is a spokesman for the movement to bring back a higher minimum wage for tipped workers in D.C.
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Shepherded by a D.C. pastor, activists are gathering this morning in Southeast to announce the formation of a group that will push a public referendum to block the D.C. Council’s decision to repeal Initiative 77, the voter-approved effort to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers in Washington.

Local NPR affiliate WAMU reports that the group, spearheaded by Reverend Graylan Hagler of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Northeast, is calling itself, “Save Our Vote, No Repeal of I77.” Working in concert with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the group has a news conference planned this morning outside the DC Office of Campaign Finance in Navy Yard.

At issue is the D.C. Council’s ability to overturn the voice of the voters. A referendum to reverse the repeal would need roughly 25,000 voter signatures to get on a ballot, according to WAMU. Hagler had this to say to the news outlet:

“We’re fighting voter suppression all across the country in this era of Trump, and here we are in Washington, D.C. not only doing voter suppression, but voter nullification. Enough is enough, and we need to draw a line in the sand and say to the Council that you can’t keep doing this.”

In June, 56 percent of voters approved Initiative 77, which would have gradually raised the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.89 an hour (plus gratuities) to the D.C. standard for other workers, which is $13.25 today.

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, along with many restaurant owners and service workers, opposes a raised minimum tipped wage because they believe it could raise the cost of operations to prohibitive levels, potentially forcing closures and the loss of jobs as well as removing the incentive for customers to tip.

Critics of tipping argue that it reinforces misogyny, racism and classism.