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This new California bill will decide wages for about half-million fast-food workers

SHARE This new California bill will decide wages for about half-million fast-food workers
Cars wait in the drive-thru line at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Francisco.

Cars wait in the drive-thru line at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Francisco, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. More than a half-million California fast-food workers are pinning their hopes on a groundbreaking proposal that would give them increased power and protections.

Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

The California Legislature has passed a bill to create a panel that will decide hourly wages for the half-million fast-food workers residing in the state, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The bill, also dubbed the Fast Act, would put members on the panel who have been appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and consist of workers, union representatives, employers and business advocates.

“We’re looking to give workers a voice on the job, and for workers in the fast-food industry, which will continue to try to organize, it’s tough,” former legislator and original author of the bill, Lorena Gonzales, said. “They’ve never had a voice on the job, and traditional organizing hasn’t worked.”

With the creation of this council, decisions about wages, working hours and standard conditions will be the focus of the group, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Wall Street Journal reported that hourly wages could be set up to $22 for fast-food workers starting next year and this number could be increased annually as the consumer-price index increases.

California Gov. Gavin Newson has not yet given an opinion on the bill, but an analysis that wasn’t supportive of the bill was released by his Department of Finance. The analysis stated that it would create “significant ongoing costs” at the Department of Industrial Relations and a “fragmented regulatory and legal environment” for employers.

This bill has changed a few things for the fast-food industry, which includes removing a joint liability clause that was set to make corporate franchisers responsible for violations of labor laws. Opponents of the bill said this decision would greatly discourage franchising in the state of California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill also changed the original number of seats given to state regulators from 13 spots to 10 with only 2 of the 10 seats being given to government figures. Under the new bill, the council will have only 10 members and four of the seats will be given to fast-food chain representatives, while another four seats will be held by fast-food employee representatives. The final two spots will be given to individuals from the Department of Industrial Relations and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

“What we have is a council that gives voice, which is what the labor code is all about,” state Sen. Bob Hertzberg said. “I think a fair balance has been reached.”

Groups opposing the legislation include the California Restaurant Association, the International Franchise Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. All of these entities have sponsored the Stop AB 257 campaign.

California Restaurant Association president Jot Condie said the main concern with the bill is that elected officials’ decisions could be overruled by individuals that the state of California didn’t vote for specifically.

“You can shift the council around, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are handing the keys to an unaccountable council to do fundamental work,” Condie said, per the Los Angeles Times. “Fundamental matters in workplace policy should be considered and dealt with by elected officials.”