This summer, more than half of DC voters supported Initiative 77, which would eliminate the two-tiered wage system and increase the tipped minimum wage to match the rising non-tipped minimum wage at $15/hr. Almost six months later, activists are still working to see the will of voters go into effect.
The “Save Our Vote” organizers, who are collecting signatures to overturn the DC City Council veto of the successful ballot question, are unlikely to be successful. After all, collecting 25,000 signatures is a tall order, and legal challenges are pending. Still, their efforts have returned attention to the City Council’s subversion of voters’ will in favor of business interests, chiefly the National Restaurant Association.
DC suffering from voter subversion is nothing new. With taxation without voting representation in both chambers of Congress, as well as the House of Representatives having budget and repeal power over the capital, district voters already know how little their vote matters. However, what the “Save Our Vote” organizers are highlighting is the willingness of locally elected, DC politicians to pile on. No one should be more acutely tuned into how disenfranchised DC voters are than their our own representatives, and yet they are overriding one of the only forms of direct democracy available to them.
For many people supporting the “Save Our Vote” signature collection, it’s more a matter of principle than it is about ending the two-tiered minimum wage system (which, by the way, enables wage theft and sexual harassment). There was always the chance that House Republican Rep. Mark Meadows’ rider vetoing Initiative 77 would be passed by Congress, making whatever decision the DC Council came to irrelevant. Still, many DC residents have remained up in arms about this issue because of the 8 Council Members who voted to repeal Initiative 77, only 1 represents a ward that voted against the measure.
Ultimately, when 55% of voters said ‘yes’ to Initiative 77 in June, that should have been the end of it. Direct democracy should not be under attack anywhere in the US, least of all the nation’s capital. Whether the “Save Our Vote” signature campaign succeeds or not, all Americans should agree that it shouldn’t have been necessary.