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Voters debate Initiative 82, which would end tipped wages

If passed, Initiative 82 would be slowly rolled out until 2027, increasing wages for tipped workers.

WASHINGTON — Election season is well underway and one of the big topics in D.C. is Initiative 82. It would, over time, eliminate the tipped wage system that exists in some restaurants and bars.

The debate has been an ongoing battle for years in the District.

One restaurateur thinks this change is long overdue.

“Change can be hard,” Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets said. He hopes Initiative 82 gets support this upcoming November. “I really see tipping as something that is a past relic. Something that needs to, not be eliminated, but certainly not have people depend on it to make their living,” he said. 

His franchise has restaurants in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

He says if Initiative 82 is successful, wages will improve for the restaurant staff, like those who work behind the scenes, but also contribute to your dining experience.

“In order for us to be able to share the wages, or the tips, with everyone in the house, we have to make sure that everybody's equally paid. Paid at least a minimum wage to prevailing minimum wage and then be able to have the tips be allocated accordingly,” he said. 

The minimum wage for non-tipped employees in DC is 16.10 per hour, but just $5.35 for tipped employees. Shallal said the change can seem alarming, when the industry has operated this way for decades.

“Why do we have to have this category that stands all on its own? Where people have to make less than and then be tipped?” he asked.

If passed, Initiative 82 would be slowly rolled out. Tipped employees will start earning $6 per hour by January 2023. $8 by next July and then two dollar raises each year until 2027.

Shallal said it gives businesses time to make changes to their establishments. “It should give time for a lot of businesses to make that adjustment and make it work, and you know, I think in the long run we're going to be looking back at this years later and think, what were we thinking,” he said. 

Not all restaurants agree though, some tell us that they can’t afford another mandatory increase in wages to stay afloat.


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