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Brianna Nave

Washington DC

Since the pandemic, restaurant workers have been leaving the industry in droves. Our research reveals that 53 percent of restaurant workers surveyed are considering leaving the industry, 70 percent of whom are citing low wages and tips as their primary reason for leaving, and 78 percent of workers state that the only reason they would stay in the industry is if they received a livable wage with tips on top. In response to this staffing crisis, thousands of restaurants nationwide have raised their wages to get workers to attract and retain staff, but this measure is not enough. Through state campaigns, we are focusing on raising wages for tipped workers so that the 1 million restaurant workers who have left since the onset of the pandemic can return to an industry that fairly compensates essential workers.

In the District of Columbia, the subminimum wage for tipped workers is still just $5.05 an hour. Ending the subminimum wage would positively impact an overall restaurant workforce of over 15,000 workers in Washington, D.C. 75 percent of which are people of color.

In 2018, voters in Washington, D.C. successfully passed One Fair Wage on the ballot, a reflection of the general popularity of the issue nationwide. Yet, the Washington, D.C. District Council overturned the will of the people due to lobbying from the Restaurant Association. 

Now the situation – and those in power – has completely changed. Millions of workers have left or are leaving the restaurant industry due to low wages and tips and high levels of health risks, hostility and harassment during the pandemic. Thousands of restaurants nationwide (and hundreds in Washington, D.C.) have raised their wages to attract and retain staff, greatly reducing the opposition to One Fair Wage.

Restaurant workers in the district have passed Initiative 82 with over 70% of the vote during the November 2022 midterm election, which will require restaurants to pay a full minimum wage of $16 with tips on top.

OFW Making History

OFW Making History

With Initiative 82 being on the ballot this midterm in Washington DC, this report outlines the benefits of implementing One Fair Wage. It examines government data and private company reports to compare Washington D.C. to three cities in states that already require One Fair Wage — Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.