After a tumultuous week for the fast food industry in California, many fast food workers are telling the Globe what they really want.
AB 257, drafted by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Los Angeles), was signed into law Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The new law will create a 10-member Fast Food Council comprised of worker delegates, employer representatives and state officials and set minimum wages, working conditions and hours for restaurant workers fast in the state, including an expected salary of $22 an hour. .
However, only a few days later, this law was in danger. A coalition of restaurants, known as Protect Neighborhood Restaurants, filed a referendum request on Wednesday. If passed, the new law would be stalled while opponents collect signatures to put the question of the Council’s creation to California voters. If enough is collected, the law would be further delayed until around fall 2024, when it would be passed. Proponents of the bill fought back and today the issue is beginning to divide many Californians.
Caught in the middle of it all are fast food workers. Some are all in favor of the Council. Others, who only work part-time, don’t like that many provisions don’t cover them. Still others rallied against fixed working hours and said they would rather work directly with their managers than with a board.
Throwing further chaos into the situation is an overall labor shortage that has already made employees more powerful to demand higher wages or more flexible hours. Since many employees are already getting pretty much what they wanted, they see the Council as something that could actually get back some of the earnings they received on their own.
Several workers contacted the Globe on Wednesday evening and gave some insight into how the pitch was really set up following these huge announcements over the week.
“The reality of the situation is that many of us are full-time employees working shifts for a salary that we have been negotiating since COVID,” Burger King employee Amani Thomas told The Globe. “When more people started to leave afterwards, because they were going to school or because they had found a better paying job, the rest of us used it as leverage. Thanks to this, full-time employees managed to get new hours. For me, I did it to have time off to get my kids back to school, but also hours off early on Sundays to go to church. The other positions were filled by part-time employees, mainly high school students and people between jobs.
“We also got a higher salary. As for me, I’m known as the best on record and my boss didn’t want me to leave. So I got a raise, especially after seeing that I helped train a lot of them and without me it would take a lot longer. Fast food places are set up so that someone can be quickly trained for the jobs needed, but it’s not exactly the easy street either. Like, you wouldn’t believe many of the skills required for some of these things.
“And with a higher salary, we can build better health care plans, even through covered California, open our own retirement accounts, etc. If the Council were put in place, we would lose much of what we have gained here. Many of us are already working with management on all of this. We know they have to make a profit, especially if we don’t want the place to close and put us all out of work, but we also know how much we’re worth. That’s right where it is now for many of us.
The new balance
Others also noted the new balance.
“Before COVID, you know, the conditions were bad, the wages were low and a lot of us were working two jobs due to cutting us an hour less than being full time,” said Manny Lobos, a worker. of fast food in the Central Valley, in an interview with the Globe. This Council goes the other way, removing our individual needs and having a few people put in place what is needed statewide. There are MANY differences that the Council will not understand. Like the need for higher pay in more urban areas where things like rent and food are more expensive. Or how different people need different hours. A McDonalds in a city center will be very different from one right next to a college, as many workers will want odd hours to work around classes. A McDonalds in an older worker community might want earlier hours to work into their schedules.
“We need to move past where we were before all of this, but the Council is not the answer. You had loudmouthed workers demanding this, but all they saw was the higher pay and they were on board. They don’t know exactly what the implications of this are.
A third worker, who wished to remain anonymous, simply told the Globe that “Neither signing the bill on Monday nor trying to block it on Wednesday will benefit us. Can’t you let us do our own thing? We just need to work with each other on this, away from all this politics.
The Secretary of State’s decision on the referendum request is due shortly.