California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill protecting the rights of fast food workers in spite of threats from restaurant owners to raise consumer costs.
The nation-leading law creates what it calls a "Fast Food Council," a 10-person board with equal representation from workers and employers, alongside two state officials. The council will have the legal authority to decide working hours and conditions, as well as minimum wage standards.
The council would have the ability to raise the industry minimum wage to $22 per hour in 2023, compared to the $15.50 per hour rate for the rest of the state. In 2024, both the council and the state will adjust the minimum wage based on inflation.
Author of the bill, Pasadena Democrat Chris Holden, said that the law is intended to “lift up small business owners and essential workers swiftly with an inclusive approach to business,” resolving “longstanding issues in the fast-food restaurant sector."
Newsom signed the bill on Labor day, emphasizing his pride in the law.
“California is committed to ensuring that the men and women who have helped build our world-class economy are able to share in the state’s prosperity," he said in a statement. "Today’s action gives hard working fast food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry."
The New York Times calls it a "step toward" sectoral bargaining, a business approach where workers and employers negotiate wage and other standards not at individual companies, but across entire industries. The Service Employees International Union, a labor union with over two million members, supports both the law and its sectoral nature, arguing that a sectoral approach is necessary for workers, as unionizing individual restaurants is often inefficient in holding leverage to employers.
David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor under President Biden, also noted that the bill would protect vulnerable workers who would find it difficult to bring claims against their employers.
He said in a statement: “There are large number of workers in general who are less likely to complain — that means you need to have government play a larger role than it would in other cases."
In their response to the bill's passage, the SEIU called the law a “watershed moment in the nation’s labor history, giving more than half a million low-wage workers in the fast-food industry a meaningful voice on the job.”