Most of California’s 500,000 fast-food workers would be paid at least $20 an hour next year under a new bill aimed at ending a conflict between unions and restaurants over wages and working conditions.
Changes proposed for Assembly Bill 1228 would specifically raise wages for workers at fast food establishments that have at least 60 locations nationwide. It excludes restaurants that make and sell their own bread, including Panera Bread. California fast food workers now earn somewhere close to the state minimum wage of $15.50 an hour.
Fast food companies and their employees have already approved the proposal, according to to the Service Employees International Union, the union representing fast food workers. The proposal, introduced earlier this year by Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden of Pasadena, must next pass the state Legislature and then be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“For the past decade, fast food cooks, cashiers and baristas in California have sounded the alarm about poverty wages and unsafe working conditions plaguing our industry,” said Ingrid Vilorio, a fast food worker and member of the SEIU. a declaration. “We have always known that to solve these problems we need a seat at the table with our employers and the power to help shape better regulations across our industry.
The effort in California is an example of how fast food workers can help shape state policies to improve their future, said Mary Kay Henry, international president of SEIU.
“I think fast food cooks and cashiers have fundamentally changed wage policy in this country and reshaped what working people believe is possible when they come together and take on corporate power and systemic racism,” Henry said.
Adjustment for inflation
The $20 an hour wage would be a starting point, union members said. If passed, the measure would also create a nine-member fast food council made up of representatives from the restaurant industry and its workers. The council would have the power to increase that minimum wage each year by up to 3.5% or the change in the U.S. consumer price index for urban and office workers, whichever is lower.
Raising the minimum wage can both benefit and hinder the economy, said Loyola Marymount economist Sung Won Sohn. He said that whenever wages rise in one sector, it also tends to lift wages in other sectors, benefiting other workers. But higher wages can also fuel inflation, raising the price of goods for everyone.
It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for states to have minimum wages for specific industries. Minnesota lawmakers created a council to set wages for nursing home workers. In 2021, Colorado announced a $15 minimum wage for direct care workers in home and community-based services.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.