California Passes Landmark Bill That Gives Fast Food Workers More Power and Protection

Photo: University of California, Los Angeles


This past Monday, California lawmakers approved a measure that gives over half a million fast food workers more power and protections. Leading the nation with the landmark decision, restaurant owners disapproved, warning it would cause an increase in consumers’ costs. 

According to Yahoo! News, the new bill is designed to provide more fairness, involving the creation of a 10-member Fast Food Council with an equal number of workers’ delegates and employers’ representatives. Additionally, it will include two state officials, given the task of setting minimum standards for wages, hours and working conditions in California.

For workers at chains with more than 100 restaurants, there will be a minimum wage cap of $22 an hour, compared to the California minimum of $15.50 an hour. Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry considers it a model for other states, “We made history today. This legislation is a huge step forward for workers in California and all across the country.”


Facing bipartisan opposition, the measure was approved by the Senate on a 21-12 vote. Following that, the Assembly sent it to Gov. Gavin Newsom, resulting in a final 41-16 vote. Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Durazo called the bill a, “very, very well-balanced method of addressing both the employers, the franchisees, as well as the workers.”

Nearly every Republican senator opposed the bill. Sen. Brian Dahle, who is the Republican nominee running for governor this November, expressed his thoughts, “This is a stepping stone to unionize all these workers. At the end of the day, it’s going to drive up the cost of the products that they serve.”

Although Gov. Newsom’s administration seemingly supports the measure, it even fears the measure may create “a fragmented regulatory and legal environment.” An analysis commissioned by restaurant owners and franchisees with the help of the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecast and Development says the legislation would increase consumers’ costs. With the debate drawing nationwide attention, time will tell whether other states follow suit. 


Kate Andrias, a Columbia Law School labor law expert expresses, “[It’s] one of the most significant pieces of employment legislation passed in a generation. [It’s] a huge step forward for some of the most vulnerable workers in the country, giving them a collective voice in their working conditions.”

Calling the legislation “a discriminatory measure aimed to target the franchise business model to bolster union ranks,” International Franchise Association President and CEO Matthew Haller disagrees.

On Monday, senators also received letters from organizations representing Asian, Black and LGBTQ businesses arguing that the measure harms minority owners and workers.