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D.C. gay bars launch campaign against ‘tipped wage’ measure

Workers fear wage losses, staff cutbacks

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Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade

Town Danceboutique (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Westlund)

Employees, managers, and owners of the D.C. gay bars Town Danceboutique, Trade, and Number Nine organized an election committee earlier this month to oppose a June 19 ballot measure asking voters to decide whether the so-called “tipped wage” exemption should be eliminated.

Other D.C. bars, restaurants, and nightclubs across the city quickly joined the committee, called NO2DC77, according to gay D.C. nightlife advocate Mark Lee, who is serving as a consultant to the committee.

The ballot measure, called Initiative 77, calls for ending an exemption to the city’s minimum wage law that allows employers of tipped workers to pay them less than the prevailing minimum wage. If approved by voters, it would require all tipped workers to be paid the full city minimum wage as part of their base pay.

NO2DC77 points out on its website NO2DC77.com that existing D.C. law requires restaurants, bars and other employers of tipped workers to pay tipped workers the difference if their tips fall short of the full minimum wage, which is currently $12.50 per hour. Under the existing tipped wage exemption, employers also pay tipped workers a lower minimum wage of $3.33 per hour.

“It is extremely rare for tipped workers to not earn incomes that are significantly higher than minimum wage, and the tip-wage system allows them to retain great earning potential,” NO2DC77 says in a May 4 statement.

“Tipped employees at the city’s nightlife establishments know that outlawing the tip-wage system will reduce their incomes, as well as result in staffing cutbacks and reductions in shifts and hours,” the statement says. “Jobs will be lost, consumer prices will skyrocket, venues won’t survive, and the economic foundation of D.C.’s vibrant and dynamic nighttime economy will be shattered,” the statement concludes.

Lee said that because LGBT people make up a disproportionately high percentage of tipped workers in nightlife establishments, they could be among the most to be adversely impacted if the initiative passes on June 19 in the city’s primary election.

Supporters of the initiative, led by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, or ROC United, dispute restaurant industry leaders’ claim that forcing them to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage over and above their tips would create a severe economic hardship in D.C.’s highly competitive hospitality industry.

ROC United officials also dispute claims that the large majority of tipped workers earn more than the minimum wage, saying servers in smaller venues that are not high end “white tablecloth” restaurants often make less than the minimum wage. The group has also launched a campaign highlighting what it says are studies showing that female tipped workers are subjected to sexual harassment to a far greater degree than females who work in other professions.

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Chaos erupts at Loudoun County school board meeting over trans students rights proposal

Two people arrested, two others injured

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(Screen capture from Loudoun County Public Schools public domain)

The Loudoun County School Board abruptly ended its meeting Tuesday as chaos erupted after parents who were against the school district’s implementation of Policy 8040 failed to observe rules regarding disruptions and decorum.

Loudoun Now reports Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser made the motion to curtail public comment about an hour after that portion of the meeting began. A brawl then broke out between members of the public, and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to clear the room. 

Two people were arrested, and two people also suffered minor injuries. The names of those who were taken into custody and injured have not been made public.

The school board resumed its meeting at 6:30 p.m. after it ended the public comment session and deputies cleared the room. The school board entered into closed session to meet with legal counsel and discuss negotiations involving a bid award.

In light of the events that transpired at the school board meeting, a group of LGBTQ groups in neighboring Fairfax County in a statement called upon prominent community members to condemn the anti-transgender hate in Loudoun County.

“A coalition of organizations based in Northern Virginia is calling on local officials … to condemn the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate, in particular animosity towards transgender and gender-expansive students, on display in Loudoun County,” reads the statement 

“In addition, the coalition is asking for the denouncement of support for this hate from other local groups, including the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the Family Foundation of Virginia and the Family Research Council,” it adds. “Finally, the members of these organizations are requesting visible displays of support for LGBTQIA+ students, particularly trans and gender-expansive students, in both words and deeds.”

More than 300 people attended the school board meeting, with many of them opposing Policy 8040 which would allow transgender students to use their preferred name and pronouns regardless of the name and gender in their permanent education record. The proposed policy would also not require them to provide any substantiating evidence.

Parents also expressed their support for Policy 8040 during the public comment session.

They spoke in favor of inclusivity and equality in the Loudoun County School District.

Parents who were against the policy cited the need to respect biology and privacy as their arguments. In addition, some speakers, including former state Sen. Dick Black expressed anger at the previous school year’s events such as the suspension of physical education teacher Tanner Cross after he refused to refer to trans students using their preferred pronouns.  

“The crowd repeatedly cheered public speakers who lashed out at school board members and denounced the plan that would provide bathroom and locker room access based on a student’s gender identity,” WTOP News reports.

Only 51 of the 249 speakers who had signed up for public comment ended up speaking before Reaser’s motion was passed.

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Pride flags vandalized, stolen in Loudoun County town

‘Bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand’

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Vandals destroyed or stole several Pride flags that had been displayed at homes in Lovettsville, Va. (Screen capture via WUSA9))

Vandals this week destroyed or stole Pride flags that Lovettsville residents had displayed on their homes.

Calvin Woehrie told WUSA the vandals used a blade to slash the Pride flag that was hanging from his house. The D.C. television station reported the vandals also targeted Woehrie’s neighbors who are a lesbian couple with four children.

The Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office said the vandals damaged five Pride flags from three homes and they stole two more. A spokesperson for the Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office told WUSA the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“I wanted to address events that happened over the weekend, that are deplorable and devastating to the entire community,” said Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine in a letter he sent to town residents on June 16. “Over the weekend, there was destruction of property that specifically targeted our LGBTQ community. To make this even more heinous is that the destruction of property was done during Pride Month. To have property destroyed targeting members of our community is horrible and can be frightening for those targeted.” 

“For the individuals who committed these crimes, know that your bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand,” added Fontaine. “We are working closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and this has also been added as an agenda item for our June 24th Council meeting.”

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, on Saturday described the vandalism as “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Whether someone is voicing an opinion or flying a flag, as Virginians — and as human beings — we must be respectful of one another,” wrote Youngkin in a Facebook post.

“Politicians always seem to be pitting neighbor against neighbor, but I am committed to bringing people together around our shared values, like treating others the same way you want to be treated,” he added. “We must all do better by respecting others’ right to live their lives freely, without being targeted because of who they are.”

WUSA reported Lovettsville residents bought Pride flags to replace the ones that had been vandalized and stolen.

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Transgender man murdered in Va.

EJ Boykin was shot outside Lynchburg store on June 14

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EJ Boykin (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A transgender man was murdered in Lynchburg, Va., on June 14.

The News and Advance, a local newspaper, reported EJ Boykin, who was also known as Novaa Watson, was shot outside a Family Dollar store on the city’s Fort Avenue at around 6 p.m. Boykin passed away at Lynchburg General Hospital a short time later.

A spokesperson for the Lynchburg Police Department told the News and Advance the shooting may have been the result of a domestic dispute. Authorities added there is no evidence to currently suggest the shooting was a hate crime based on Boykin’s gender identity.

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported Boykin was born and raised in Baltimore and was a student at Morgan State University. The blog said Boykin celebrated his 23rd Birthday on June 10, four days before his murder.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement notes Boykin is the fifth trans man reported killed in 2021. HRC notes at least 29 trans or gender non-conforming people are known to have been murdered so far this year.

“The level of fatal violence we’ve recorded this year is higher than we’ve ever seen,” said Cooper. “All of these individuals deserved to live. We must strike at the roots of racism and transphobia, and continue to work toward justice and equality for trans and gender non-conforming people.”

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