Post-Election Thoughts On Initiative 77

So the one good piece of news from D.C.’s primary yesterday–and the winners of Democratic primary are usually the general election winners–is that Initiative 77, which will raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, including non-restaurant tipped workers, to the ‘regular’ minimum wage by 2026 passed. Here’s how it broke down by the city as a whole and by ward (data from here):

There was more support for Yes on 77 in the majority black wards, especially east of the river, than in the white wards. Also, turnout east of the river was very low. If we drill down by precincts, it was west of the park, along with some precincts that have a lot of restaurants (other than Busboys and Poets, most restaurants were openly No on 77), that were opposed to 77.

In terms of policy, as I’ve argued before, this is good. One of out four D.C. workers experiences wage theft. And the restaurant owners who kept talking about other plans that would be better… never actually proposed a better plan. Too many low-income workers, who, in D.C., are disproportionately minority and female, need raises. Hell, they needed raises years ago. With inflation, this will only be a $12.80/hour wage. As Roy Edroso put it:

My reason for voting for Prop 77 was this: They’re *always* telling us how they can’t pay more, that it would ruin everything, can’t you see you’re only hurting the workers, etc. And we accede, and workers keep falling further and further behind. So fuck it. Make ‘em pay.

Ultimately, the entire debate was odd: everyone portrayed this as a conflict among customers, workers, and owners. But the elephant in the room–a BIGLY one–is business rents. They are extremely high–several D.C. restaurants have either closed or moved because of rent increases. It’s not like landlords who, unlike customers, workers, and owners, are bringing anything to the table (pun intended). That, and Intelligent Designer forbid, well-off people pay more to eat out*.

*I’ve never heard those who argue that people will eat out less due to higher wages say they themselves will do so. Well off people will still eat out.

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