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DC Restaurant Owners, Liberal Activists Both Furious With Mayor’s Minimum Wage Plan

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposal to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers in the city is sparking intense blow-back from restaurant owners, who say it will only end up hurting their employees.

Bowser unveiled her proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour by 2020, but surprised many by also calling to raise the wage of tipped employees from $2.77 an hour to $7.50, reports The Washington Times. While tipped employees have a low base salary, they largely end up making well over the minimum wage according to business owners in the District.

They say Bowser’s proposal could end up harming the very workforce it’s intended to help.

“Not all restaurants will be able to afford the $7.50 base pay plus tips, and many will likely adopt an entirely new compensation method, paying a fixed hourly wage to all employees and applying a service charge to the final bill – and discouraging tipping,” Kathy Hollinger, president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, told The Washington Times. “The effect of this is complicated and, if passed, will ultimately harm restaurant employees instead of helping them.”

Bowser’s proposal is drawing heat from both sides of the aisle however, with $15 minimum wage activists saying it does not raise the wage of tipped workers high enough. Activists say the tipping system “oppresses” workers, arguing everyone’s minimum wage should be equal, reports the DCist.

“Mayor Bowser’s heart is in the right place but she’s completely out of sync with the people of DC on this proposal,” Gaby Madriz, Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC said in a press release. “Our initiative calls for $15 for all. It’s really that simple.

“If she can’t get the entire job done and establish one fair wage for all low-wage workers in DC, then Mayor Bowser should get out of the way and let the people act,” Madriz added.

Currently the minimum wage in the District is $10.50 and will increase by a dollar at the beginning of June. Opponents of a minimum wage boost note it increases operating costs for the business, which trickles down to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

Restaurant owners say the policy, along with the increase for tipped workers will likely lead to layoffs, reduced hours, or a combination of both. There is also fear such a policy shift could eventually end the tipping system, which business groups argue is a benefit to employees.

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