In my previous post, “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You,” I presented numerous reasons why Initiative 77 was a misguided mistake that had to be repealed to prevent hurting the D.C. workers it was purportedly passed to help. Workers got the opportunity to speak for themselves during the September 17 hearing before the D.C. Council that lasted 16 hours. The substantial majority of the 253 individuals who testified at the hearing favored repeal of Initiative 77 that had passed by 56 % of the vote in June’s primary election. Notably, those in favor of repeal were predominately the very restaurant workers Initiative 77 advocates claimed needed it because they were victims of the existing unfair minimum wage law applicable to tipped workers. The tipped workers (including minority women) made clear that they resented having outsiders who know nothing about them or the restaurant industry speak for them and impose unwanted changes to their compensation structure. The workers were articulate and passionate about having their voice heard. To view portions of the testimony, check out the Washington City Paper’s Report: https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/food/article/21022589/live-blog-hearing-on-the-bill-repealing-initiative-77.
For the most part, those who support implementing Initiative 77 are people who have no knowledge about the restaurant industry or economics. They present the same disingenuous and illogical arguments that were offered to support Initiative 77 before the June primary. There is, however, one legitimate argument being raised by those who oppose a repeal and it is being raised by many who did not vote for and expressly opposed Initiative 77 before it passed. Repealing what 56% of the voters said they wanted is unquestionably extraordinary conduct and the propriety of doing so should be considered thoughtfully. As discussed in “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You,” the circumstances surrounding the passage of Initiative 77 and the consequences of its implementation, justify the extraordinary act of repealing it. The facts show that Initiative 77 was not the will of the people but rather the consequence of having received misleading information from outsiders before the primary and by the poor drafting of the ballot initiative that implied tipped workers were not paid minimum wage by their employers. Most importantly, the workers who were held out to be the beneficiaries of Initiative 77 have made it clear that they do not want Initiative 77 and that their livelihoods will be damaged if it is implemented. Knowing now the true will of the people of D.C., the responsible and democratic response is for the D.C. Council to repeal Initiative 77.