Most Councilmembers Won’t Seek Another Repeal If Tipped Wage Ballot Measure Passes

The ballot measure to phase out D.C.’s tipped minimum wage has survived a round of legal challenges and should head to voters once again this fall: But if it passes, will it stick?

Four years ago, the D.C. Council acted swiftly to overturn voters’ approval of a similar measure, Initiative 77, in one of its most controversial votes in recent memory. This time around, Initiative 82 looks much safer, according to Loose Lips’ poll of lawmakers on the matter.

Most activists working on the tipped wage issue have generally assumed that a second repeal vote was off the table given the public outcry over that particular decision—Janeese Lewis George made the issue a huge part of her successful campaign against Brandon Todd in the Ward 4 primary two years ago, and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a leading repeal proponent, made it clear on the campaign trail this year that he would respect the will of the voters. But things can be unpredictable in the Wilson Building, especially with big-name restaurateurs once again lining up to oppose the ballot measure, so LL figured it was best to put councilmembers on the record ahead of time.

In all, six lawmakers say they plan to vote for I82 when they cast their own ballots in November and would not support repeal efforts: Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Lewis George, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, and At-Large Councilmembers Christina Henderson, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White. Mendelson and Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto both remain opposed to the elimination of the tipped wage, but neither expressed any interest in backing a repeal.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie did not respond to LL’s requests for comment, but he did say in a recent D.C. for Democracy debate that he would allow it to become law if he wins his bid to stay on the Council as an at-large member (that’s a reversal from his previous support for the repeal effort). Spokespeople for Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, and At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds also did not respond to requests for comment; all three supported repeal in 2018.

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