No sooner was the ink dry on California’s new fast food law when local and regional business advocacy organizations created or sponsored the Stop AB 257 campaign. In a joint statement the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association said they intend to provide voters an opportunity to reverse the law to prevent harm to California local businesses and consumers.
The referendum, requested on September 6, 2022, if it collects the required 623,000 voter signatures, would put the FAST Restaurant Act in the hands of the voters in the next general election; November, 2024.
Opponents of AB 257, or the FAST Recovery Act, expect restaurant closures and increased prices if workers wages are increased significantly. Workers employed at higher hourly wages will enjoy better living conditions but restaurant owners anticipate having to pare down the number of employees per shift.
AB 257 sets the stage for a significant increase in the hourly wages of fast food workers whose employer is one of at least 100 locations nationally. The law allows for the creation of a council who has the authority to raise wages. The upper cap for next year is $22. The council, a group of workers, union reps, employers and state officials, will determine the exact increase, if any. 10,000 fast-food restaurant employee signatures are needed to create the council.
Inequality has reached epidemic proportions with rents increasing 35% while renter income grew by only 6%. Average real income for the bottom 40% of workers in California fell by 16% while the income of the top 1% increased 134% between 1897 and 2017. Adjusted for inflation, the median wage of $21.79 in 2018 was a mere 1% higher than 1979.
In 2015-16, California higher-wage advocates collected enough signatures to qualify a state $15 minimum wage ballot initiative. Polling indicated that the voters would overwhelmingly approve such a proposition, so the California legislature jumped in to enact the first $15 state minimum wage in 2016. California’s minimum wage stands at $15 per hour currently with a .50 cent increase expected next year. Many cities and counties have higher minimum wage rates.
California continues to be the epicenter for a nationwide movement to raise the wage floor for American workers.
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