A California fast-food council? What does it mean for employers?
The governor recently signed into law legislation that will likely create such a body, which will have sweeping ramifications for employers in the fast-food sector.
UPDATE (Feb. 1, 2023): The law is on hold.
At a high level, the Fast Food Council in California will set minimum standards for workers in the industry, including:
- Working hours
- Conditions related to health and safety
- Workplace security
- The right to take time off from work for protected reasons
- Protection from discrimination and harassment
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act on Labor Day 2022.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement. “Today’s action gives hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry. I’m proud to sign this legislation on Labor Day when we pay tribute to the workers who keep our state running as we build a stronger, more inclusive economy for all Californians.”
The law appears to be the first of its kind in the U.S.
California Minimum Wage
California Fast-Food Council
However, for the group to establish anything, the California Department of Industrial Relations would have to receive a petition of at least 10,000 fast-food workers to approve the council’s creation. The council would then meet biannually, or more, to set standards and regulations.
Actions from the council would apply to larger fast-food restaurants in California.
The law defines these restaurants as those:
“… consisting of 100 or more establishments nationally that share a common brand, or that are characterized by standardized options for decor, marketing, packaging, products, and services.”
While the language in the law gives the group a broad spectrum of items to address, it does curtail its ability regarding minimum wage for fast-food employees. Any minimum wage established by the council between Jan. 1, 2023, and Dec. 31, 2023, can’t be over $22 per hour. (It could be increased from that figure based on inflation starting in 2024.)
Meanwhile, the law has already received some backlash. Restaurant groups are pushing to repeal the California fast-food council law. And some speculate it will see legal challenges.
Ten individuals will be on the council:
- One representative from the California Department of Industrial Relations
- Two representatives of fast-food restaurant franchisors
- Two representatives of fast-food restaurant franchisees
- Two representatives of fast-food restaurant employees
- Two representatives of advocates for fast-food restaurant employees
- One representative from the governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development
Lastly, the law also allows large cities (those with 200,000 or more residents) to establish their own local councils.
As of May 2021, there were approximately 361,000 fast-food employees in California, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Once again, California is keeping employers on their toes with new employment laws.
The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act and the establishment of a fast-food council to provide standards for employees in that sector would have major implications for large employers.
Still, the law could face legal challenges or be overturned through a ballot measure.
It will be interesting to watch the California fast-food council law moving forward.