Collective bargaining bill finds opposition

Restaurant industry rallies against California fast food workers.

By Asher Miles, Staff Writer

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Act, a bill that will introduce a California Fast Food Council, a collective bargaining group that could increase the wages of fast food workers by up to almost 40 percent.

Despite opposition from restaurant business associations, the California state senate stood with labor unions by passing AB 257. The bill mandates that a 10-person counsel be established to set an industry-wide minimum wage and help to strengthen safety standards. According to section 2 of the bill, fast food organizations received record-breaking profits since 2020 while their employees have seen their wages stagnate alongside rising inflation.

“There are just things that could be improved on,” said second-year Valley College and McDonald's employee Michael Potemkin. “I would love our meal break to be paid and to increase the hourly pay to above $20 an hour.”

The bill that will outline future labor regulations and standards will the first of its kind in the United States. Currently, there are 550,000 California fast food workers with annual pay less than $26,000.

Advocates hope that the bill increases the bargaining powers of fast food workers after multiple reported cases of fast food businesses’ misconduct, including wage theft and overtime pay issues.

“We realize that there are sectors of our economy where we are falling a bit short and one of those areas are fast food workers,” said Gov Gavin Newsom in a video posted to Twitter. “I’m proud on Labor Day that bill [AB 257] and to enshrine it in law.”

The bill, also called the FAST Recovery Act, will orchestrate a council of 10 representatives; quick service restaurant franchises, franchisees and employees will have two representatives, while the governor’s office, the office of Business and Economic Development, and the California Department of Industrial Relations will each have one. Every representative, except the employee advocates, will be appointed by Newsom.

While advocates hope the bill establishes sector-wide minimum standards for wages, hours, and other working conditions, many California business groups and associations fear higher consumer costs and added layers of bureaucracy.

Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association, issued a statement urging the state senate to reject the bill.

Overall, AB 257 is a direct assault on tested, effective governance for which legislators are elected, said Condie “The bill strips existing authority regulating and legislating the restaurant community.”

Since its inception, business advocacy organizations have financed tens of millions into a contending campaign entitled “Stop AB 257.” According to a review of California lobbying disclosures, almost $1.5 million went to lobbying against the bill fighting for sector-wide standards. The campaign states that the new bill “will drastically increase food prices by as much as 20%.”

“The business lobbyists definitely want to block the passage with the $1.5 million that they've pumped into the opposition,” said the undeclared Potemkin.

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