Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Overview: In September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation intended to give fast food workers better wages and working conditions.
Population: 40 million
Food policy category: Food service
Program goals: To support fast food workers’ health, safety, and welfare.
How it works: The legislation pertains to fast food chains with 100 or more locations across the country. It authorizes the creation of a Fast Food Council to set standards for fast food workers’ minimum wage, health and safety conditions, workplace security, and protection from discrimination and harassment.
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) must first receive a petition signed by 10,000 fast food workers approving the creation of the Council. Then, within 90 days of the petition’s approval, Council members will be appointed and hold their first meeting. They will continue to convene every six months until 2029.
The Fast Food Council will be made up of ten members appointed by Governor Newsom, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Senate Rules Committee:
- One member of the Department of Industrial Relations.
- Two fast food restaurant franchisors.
- Two fast food restaurant franchisees.
- Two fast food restaurant employees.
- Two advocates for fast food restaurant employees.
- One member of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
The Council will have the power to issue, amend, or repeal any rules and regulations necessary to establish minimum fast food working standards. Decisions will be made based on an affirmative vote from at least six members of the Council. If there are discrepancies or conflicts between the Council’s decisions and existing rules from other state agencies, the Council’s decision will prevail.
Beginning in January 2023, the Council may establish a minimum wage for fast food workers not to exceed $22 per hour. In 2024 and annually thereafter, the highest wage may increase by either the lesser of 3.5 percent or the rate of change of the US Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.
The Council may not create new paid time off benefits or regulations regarding predictable scheduling.
Progress to date: The bill was first introduced in January 2021 by Assemblymember Chris Holden, and Governor Newsom signed it into law on September 5, 2022. The DIR is currently awaiting receipt of the petition that will allow the Fast Food Council to begin meeting and making changes on behalf of fast food workers.
Why it is important: The FAST Recovery Act was first introduced as a response to reported safety violations affecting fast food workers during the pandemic. Wage theft – when employers fail to pay their employees the full amount to which they are entitled – along with harassment and discrimination by both customers and employers, are common complaints among fast food workers. The passage of the act will place responsibility on fast food corporations as a whole, rather than on individual franchise owners, and workers will receive more of the respect and care they deserve. Governor Newsom states that the new legislation “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.”
Program/Policy initiated: The bill was signed into law on September 5, 2022.
Point of contact:
Office of Governor Gavin Newsom
Similar practices: New York City’s Fair Workweek Law, implemented in June 2021, gives fast food workers more rights in terms of hours and scheduling. New York State implemented a Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers that increased the minimum wage for New York City fast food workers to $15 per hour in 2018 (up from $13.50 in 2017), and for those in the rest of New York State in 2021 (up from $14.50 in 2020).
Evaluation: While the FAST Recovery Act has received support from the governor, fast food workers, unions, and many other organizations advocating for worker rights, there has been significant backlash from the restaurant industry. There is concern that an increase in the minimum wage will result in higher and less appealing prices for consumers and, in turn, reduced profits for the franchises. Additionally, some are concerned that the legislation will cause an upsurge in lawsuits against employers. On September 6, one day after the act was signed into law, a coalition of restaurants filed a referendum request to overturn the law. Proponents of the referendum have until December 4, 2022, to gather at least 623,212 signatures from registered voters in order to place it on the 2024 ballot.
- California Governor Signs Bill to Regulate Fast-Food Industry (The New York Times)
- Fast Food Chains Raise Millions to Oppose California Wage Law (The Wall Street Journal)
- A New Bill Could Hold Fast Food Chains Accountable for Employee Wage Theft (Civil Eats)
- New California Law Could Raise Fast-Food Minimum Wage to $22 an Hour (CNN)
- New California Law Could Raise Fast-Food Workers’ Minimum Wage to $22 an Hour (Today) Newsom Signs Law with Sweeping Protections for California Fast-Food Workers (The Washington Post)
- Raising Standards for Fast-Food Workers in California (Center for American Progress)
- Restaurant Workers Protest Poor Working Conditions and Low Wages at McDonald’s, Chipotle, and More Amid Coronavirus Pandemic (ABC News)
- UC Researchers Explore Poor Conditions Faced by Workers in Fast-Food Industry (Daily Bruin)
- AB-257 Food Facilities and Employment (California Legislative Information)
- A.B. 257 Is a Big Step Forward for California Fast-Food Workers (AFL-CIO)
- California Governor Signs Landmark Legislation that Gives Bargaining Power to Nonunionized Fast-Food Workers (The National Law Review)
- California Passes Bill on Fast-Food Employment Standards (Society for Human Resource Management)
- California’s Fast Food Regulation Headed to Ballot (Cal Matters)
- Consumer Price Index Summary (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Forty Organizations Urge California Lawmakers to Pass AB257, the FAST Recovery Act (Economic Policy Institute)
- Governor Newsom’s AB 257 Stamp of Approval Will Hurt California Consumers (California Restaurant Association)
- Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Improve Working Conditions and Wages for Fast-Food Workers (Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
- Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers Frequently Asked Questions (New York State)
- Newsom signs landmark law for fast-food workers (Los Angeles Times)
- Pass AB 257 The FAST Recovery Act (Fast Food Justice Ahora)
- Restaurants File for Referendum to Stop California’s New Fast Food Worker Law (California Globe)
- Will California Really Implement A $22 Minimum Wage? (Forbes)