NCL welcomes minimum wage for tipped workers in the District of Columbia

November 9, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown,, (202) 207-2832

Washington D.C.— The National Consumers League welcomes the decision by the voters of the District of Columbia to support Initiative 82, lifting tipped workers from the subminimum wage to a full minimum wage and to be phased in over the next five years. NCL’s founders, who wrote the first minimum wage laws in the United States at the turn of the 20th Century, is part of the One Fair Wage (OFW) movement headed by visionary Saru Jayaraman. OFW aims to do away with the subminimum tipped wage across America. That subminimum wage is a relic of post-slavery emancipation in the U.S. when African Americans were expected to work for free and get a tip if they were lucky.

Four years ago, residents of the District overwhelmingly voted to support Initiative 77 to get rid of the $5.05 tipped wage and move to the full DC-mandated minimum wage for all tipped workers. Unfortunately, in 2018, the DC Council voted 8-5 to overturn the will of the people and the law never went into effect. However, One Fair Wage and Initiative 82 backers were able to get the measure on the ballot again in 2022, and once again, the measure won by overwhelming margins. This time, DC Council members have pledged to let the ballot measure become law.

Currently, the tipped wage is $5.35. Initiative 82 affects all in DC who rely on tips to bring them up to the minimum wage, which will be $16.10 by 2027 and will apply to restaurant servers, bartenders, nail salons workers, and parking lot attendants.

Employers are required by current law to ensure that if tips don’t bring workers up to the minimum wage, they must make up the difference. Unfortunately, more often than not this doesn’t happen. As DC Councilmember Mary Cheh has noted, the current law “is an invitation to cheat.”

The statement below is attributable to Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League:

“NCL is deeply appreciative that the voters of the District have once again decided that all workers in DC are entitled to earn the same minimum wage. We hail the overwhelming popularity of Initiative 82 among DC residents and applaud the work of One Fair Wage and the organizers of Initiative 82 in getting this measure on the ballot. This is a big win for workers.

“As a former waitress, I can attest that relying on customers to tip you so that you make minimum wage is unsustainable. Many customers tip minimally, some don’t tip at all, and employers frequently don’t make up the difference. As a result, tipped workers – many of whom are women and people of color – end up with poverty wages; are subject to some of the highest rates of sexual harassment; and are unable to feed their families under the current system.

“Initiative 82 is long overdue. We need to say goodbye to the tipped wage and give all workers in the District the respect they deserve and that includes the right to earn the same minimum wage as all other workers.

“NCL looks forward to working with the DC Government and the  Attorney General’s office to see this measure implemented across the District in the coming months.”


About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit