A Living Wage

Service industry workers in DC work long hours, and most receive no health or retirement benefits.  Because we don’t pay these workers a living wage, most aren’t able to afford to live in DC. This is unacceptable. I firmly believe that we as a community are willing to pay a bit more for dinner in order to sleep at night knowing those who helped prepare and serve our meal are able to make a living wage and take care of themselves and their families.

Our current council member does not seem to agree.  When given the opportunity to vote to raise the tipped minimum wage for DC service workers, he chose not to.  

The tipped minimum wage is the minimum hourly wage required to be paid to service workers who receive tips when they fail to reach the defined minimum hourly wage. Not raising the tipped minimum wage has a disparate impact on minority workers who generally are not working at high-end restaurants where the cost of meals generally necessitates a large tip.  By not raising the tipped minimum wage makes it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for the hard-working people who work in our community to also live here.

Our council member voted against raising the tipped minimum wage because his business donors, including restaurant owners, told him to. He has since tried to deflect attention from this vote by attempting to focus on the $15 DC minimum wage, a policy that will not impact restaurant owners or benefit their workers.

To be clear: our council member’s vote on the tipped minimum wage is not progressive. In fact, it reflects the Republican position on this issue. It is a position that has been denounced by unions, consumer groups, and organizations such as the National Employment Law Project and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United.

Moreover, refusing to vote in favor of an increase to the tipped minimum wage harms women and minorities. A study by the National Women’s Law Center noted that female tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty as their male colleagues, and women of color account for 42 percent of the workforce that would benefit from a higher wage, despite making up only 28 percent of the workforce.

We have seen tremendous growth of restaurants in our Ward over the last several years. It has brought great enjoyment and benefit to many of us, but much of that has been at the expense of hard-working staff who struggle to make enough money to remain in our community, let alone thrive here.

Delvone Michael, the director of the DC Working Families Party, put it best: “People should not work a full-time job and live in poverty.” I believe strongly that the residents of Ward 6 are fundamentally decent people who agree with that sentiment, and would support paying all workers in our community a living wage. Under new leadership that hasn’t been bought by the restaurant industry, I believe we can get there.