February 1, 2023

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California voters to decide on regulating the fast food industry

LOS ANGELES – A California law that created a board with broad power to set wages and improve working conditions for fast-food employees has been halted after restaurants and trade groups provided enough signatures to bring the case to voters next year.

Officials from the California Secretary of State’s office announced late Tuesday that Save Local Restaurants, a broad coalition of small business owners, large corporations, restaurateurs and franchisees, has provided enough valid signatures to prevent the law from taking effect.

The group, which has raised millions of dollars to oppose the law, had to provide nearly 623,000 valid voter signatures by an early December deadline for a question on the 2024 ballot asking California voters whether the law should go into effect.

legislation Occurred In September by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, he will create a 10-member council of union, employer and worker representatives to oversee labor practices in the state’s fast food industry.

The commission will have the power to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to as much as $22 an hour — well above the statewide minimum of $15.50. In addition, the council will oversee health, safety and anti-discrimination regulations for approximately 550,000 fast food workers statewide.

Opponents, including the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association, argued that the measure, Assembly Bill 257, singled out their industry and would in turn burden businesses with higher labor costs that would be passed on to consumers in higher food prices.

Matt Haller, president of the International Franchise Association, said the bill “was a solution to searching for a problem that didn’t exist.”

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“California residents have spoken out to stop this misguided policy from raising food prices and destroying local businesses and the jobs they create,” Haller said.

Last year, the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at the University of California, Riverside, released a study That estimated that employers would pass one-third of the increases in employment compensation to consumers.

But Mr. Newsom, in signing the measure, said it “gives tireless fast-food workers a stronger voice and a seat at the table to set fair wages and important health and safety standards across the industry.”

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, who is a staunch supporter of the measure, attacked the fast food companies.

“Instead of taking responsibility for ensuring that workers who feed their profits receive a living wage and work in safe and healthy environments, companies continue to lead the race to the bottom in the fast food industry,” Ms. Henry said. “It is morally wrong, and it is bad business.”

The effort to put the issue before voters follows the playbook big business has been using to defraud lawmakers in Sacramento. in 2019, State legislators passed the measure This required companies like Uber and Lyft to treat gig workers as employees. The companies opposed the measure and helped secure a motion on the 2020 ballot that would allow them to treat drivers as independent contractors. the scale Passed successfully With nearly 60 percent of the vote.

The fast food law has been watched closely by industry workers across california, incl Angelica Hernandez, 49, has worked at McDonald’s restaurants in the Los Angeles area for 18 years.

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“We are not deterred, and we refuse to back down,” Ms. Hernandez said. “We can’t wait to raise wages to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living and provide for our families.”

What made the law unusual, said Allison Morantz, a professor at Stanford Law School who focuses on employment law, is its “comprehensive approach to addressing a wide range of problems in a traditionally nonunion industry—not just low and stagnant wages, but also job discrimination and poor safety practices.” “.

“If it goes into effect, it will be watched closely and could become a precursor to similar efforts in other labor-friendly jurisdictions,” Ms. Morantz said.