Weeks after the D.C. Council unanimously voted to delay raising the tipped minimum wage, Chris Huggins said he continues to feel the effects of an economic downturn that’s making many of his customers think twice about eating out and barhopping. 

Huggins, a manager at a bar and vocal supporter of Initiative 82, said he currently works almost every day and more than 60 hours per week, to pay bills and meet his basic needs. Because of fluctuations in his tips, Huggins often walks or takes the bus to get to work in between paychecks. 

He has also given up any semblance of a social life. 

While Huggins, in his eighth year as a bartender, doesn’t see himself leaving the service industry anytime soon, he said policy decisions and misconceptions about how raising the tipped minimum wage would affect businesses has worsened matters for him and his colleagues. 

“Now it’s just me being stricter on a budget and giving up certain things, which is unfair because I want to work in the service industry,” Huggins said. 

“Most people say that businesses won’t be able to afford a raised minimum wage and people won’t tip anymore. I don’t believe that,” Huggins added. “It’s part of our culture. It’s one of those things I don’t see disappearing in a blink of an eye.” 

On Jan. 17, the D.C. Council unanimously approved an emergency amendment that D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) introduced to delay Initiative 82’s implementation. 

Last year, nearly 3 out of 4 voters approved Initiative 82, also known as the District of Columbia Tip Credit Elimination Act. Years prior, the D.C. Council repealed Initiative 77, a nearly identical ballot measure that voters approved by a 12-point margin. 

Had Initiative 82 been taken effect in January, the tipped minimum wage would’ve gone from $5.35 to $6 per hour. 

In July, it’s scheduled to increase once again, reaching $8 per hour. By 2027, the raised tipped minimum wage would reach $16,10 per hour, on par with the standard wage. 

In explaining why she pushed for Initiative 82’s delay, Bonds, chairwoman of the council’s Committee on Executive Administration & Labor, said she wanted to ensure that the ballot measure passed through the congressional review period, which she estimated ending in late April. 

Bonds also cited the need for D.C. Department of Employment Services to prepare for the increase.  

However, Initiative 82 proponents cited the Legislative Information Management System in designating March 8 as the end of the 30-day congressional period. They said Bonds’ estimations align with what the business lobby has circulated in literature. 

When asked about her calculation of congressional review period, Bonds told The Informer that her office had questions about whether the 30-day congressional review period included only business days, or business days and weekends. 

She said a conversation between her office and that of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) revealed that congressional leaders often alternated on the route they followed. Ultimately, as what she described as a safety measure, Bonds marked late April as the end of the 30 days . 

“We operated on what would be the absolute last day. We wanted to make sure we didn’t get any misinformation,” Bonds said. “It was about knowing congressional timing and it shouldn’t be either or. Congress just organized itself. All that has to be taken into consideration.” 

Bonds’ explanation about the congressional review period hasn’t sufficed for some people, like Nikolas Schiller of Build Better Restaurants DC. Schiller has gone as far to accuse Bonds of acting on behalf of restaurant industry titans who oppose raising the tipped minimum wage. 

For nearly two years, Build Better Restaurants DC went toe to toe with the National Restaurant Association, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and local restaurant groups over Initiative 82. 

Last year, after organizers unsuccessfully attempted to get Initiative 82 placed on the primary ballot, they submitted signatures to get Initiative 82 on the general election ballot. Restaurant groups then initiated a lengthy court battle . 

After D.C. Superior Court, and later the Court of Appeals, dismissed the complaint, Build Better Restaurants DC spent the last two months of the election season campaigning. 

Now Schiller said that battle continues against a force that leverages power to the detriment of the workers who keep restaurants running. 

“It seems like [all the council members] were all lied to or had visits by the restaurant industry,” Schiller said. 

“For Council member Bonds to say that the completion of the congressional review wouldn’t happen until April was a gross misreading of the calendar and a failure to look at LIMS,” Schiller added. “If Council member Bonds really cared about tipped workers, she could’ve sped up the payments. Delays only help the restaurant industry.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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1 Comment

  1. Anita Bonds keeps working AGAINST the people. For years she was lead on the HPTF which has NOT created affordable housing at 0-30% AMI. Now she is messing with the tip wafgl]ee law iimplementation

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