Washington (AFP) – Voters in the US capital Washington approved a measure Tuesday to require businesses to pay tipped workers at least $15 per hour as a base hourly wage by 2025.
The Minimum Wage Amendment Act, or “Initiative 77” as the ballot measure is known, has divided restaurant employees and owners and sparking a heated debate in Washington.
It passed with 55.14 percent support, according to the District of Columbia Board of Elections.
Opponents of the measure argued that it would cause menu prices to rise and tips to decline, hurting both restaurant owners and the servers the move is designed to protect.
Employers of tipped workers are currently exempt from paying the standard minimum wage, and some waiters and waitresses are paid as little as $3.33 an hour.
But many tipped workers are against the legislation because they currently earn most of their money through tips, and they argue that a decrease in tipping — due to increased prices — could severely affect their income.
Employers are currently legally required to make up the difference between an employee’s earnings and the full minimum wage, which is currently $12.50, if their tips fall short.
But Christopher Maggiano, a Washington small business owner who supported Initiative 77, as the measure is known, said “this is difficult to enforce” with a high rate of noncompliance.