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Fast-food worker wages could rise in California. When would it happen and by how much?

A new law to improve conditions and wages has been slated for a ballot in next year’s voting period.

Fast-food worker wages could rise in California. When would it happen and by how much?

Workers at some of California’s largest fast food chains were expecting to have a lot more power in contract negotiations in 2023. Signed on Labor Day 2022, AB 257 would have demanded that worker councils have a seat at the table when franchises and owners were organising contracts in large cities. Its aim is to set minimum industry standards across a variety of sectors.

It could have rewarded fast-food workers a wage of $22 an hour, $7 more than California’s state minimum. Increased wages would not have happened immediately though were capped at an inflation barrier. Importantly for workers it would have been an avenue for collective bargaining statewide instead of localised changes franchise by franchise.

No corporation is more powerful than half a million workers joining together to demand a seat at the table,” Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union, said in an emailed statement.

The law was supposed to go into effect 1 January 2023. However, a pushback by big business has meant the new law is going to be given to voters at the next ballot in November 2024. 712,000 people voted for a referendum option instead of the bill coming into effect this year.

Big food companies paid millions to postpone the law

Opposition to the law came from business owners who claimed it would increase prices for consumers. Restaurants such as Chipotle and McDonalds donated millions to support the effort to put the law to a vote as it would force the companies to pay their workers a better salary. They are led by the International Franchise Association (IFA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

IFA Chief Executive Matt Haller said in a statement, “Fortunately, now more than 1 million Californians have spoken out to prevent this misguided policy from driving food prices higher and destroying local businesses and the jobs they create.”

It is no surprise that both of these groups opposing the bill are antiunion. The franchise groups threw $1.5 million of lobbying cash against the bill. No trade or workers union came out in support of the postponement.