Maximum controversy over minimum wage in the district

Clydes minimum wageTalk of raising the minimum wage has been all the rage in the District as of late, and one demographic has sparked some discussion: tipped restaurant workers.

The current minimum wage for tipped workers in D.C. is $2.77/hour, without gratuities. District law requires, in theory, tipped workers to be compensated up to $8.25/hour by business owners if their weekly earnings from tips average out to be lower than minimum wage. There is debate over whether this actually happens.

As of now, there are no existing formal legislative proposals that seek increased wages for tipped workers, though D.C. does plan to increase regular minimum wage. Nevertheless, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, an industry group, has been circulating an online petition that encourages the D.C. Council to leave tipped wages out of the conversation.

DCist reports that Clyde’s restaurant group, which owns and operates Georgetown favorites like the 1789 Restaurant, Clyde’s, and The Tombs, has called upon its own employees, some of whom are Georgetown students, to sign the RAMW petition. A counter-petition has already surfaced, created by a former Clyde’s employee, as accusations of bullying have been levied against the restaurant group.

The regular minimum wage in D.C. currently stands at $8.25/hour, well above the national average of $7.64/hour. On Monday, however, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs voted 6-0 to increase the District’s minimum wage to $11.50/hour by the year 2015. The wage hike will have to survive two votes in the D.C. Council proper before it is implemented. The first vote could take place as early as this December.

This latest effort to increase the regular minimum wage, sponsored by at-large councilman and mayoral candidate Vincent Orange, comes at the heels of a more ambitious proposal that was vetoed by sitting Mayor Vincent Gray in September. That bill would have required larger businesses (those with either over $1 billion in annual sales or 75,000 square feet of retail space) to pay employees $12.50/hour in wage and benefits, but the capitalist juggernaut Wal-Mart successfully pressured Gray to exercise his veto.

Monday’s minimum wage hike also faces uncertain prospects. On Friday, Gray announced in a letter to the D.C. Council his support of a more modest minimum wage increase to $10/hour. His statement implied the threat of a veto for the council’s $11.50/hour proposal. Orange remained defiant, however, saying, “I view this as another delaying technique. [Gray’s] rhetoric does not reconcile with his actions.” The Washington Post reports that Orange has (or, claims to have) the support of eight other council members, thereby giving him enough legislative clout to override a mayoral veto.

Just when it appears that things couldn’t possibly get more complicated, the progressive D.C. Working Families Party began last week to collect signatures for a 2014 ballot initiative that would increase the District’s minimum wage to $12.50/hour. Such an initiative, naturally, would bypass both the D.C. Council and Mayor Gray.

Photo: Kyle Walton via Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>