California has passed a new law that will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour starting in April 2022. This move acknowledges that many fast food workers are the primary earners for their low-income households. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the law, highlighting that fast food jobs are not just for teenagers, but rather represent a significant contribution to the workforce. The law is a result of negotiations between labor unions and business groups, with labor unions dropping an attempt to hold fast food corporations liable for the actions of their franchise operators in exchange for higher pay. The law will apply to fast food chains with at least 60 locations nationwide.
California already has one of the highest minimum wages in the United States, with a base salary of $15.50 per hour for all other workers. The new $20 minimum wage for fast food workers is a significant increase from their current average wage of $16.60 per hour. The law also establishes a Fast Food Council that has the power to further increase the wage each year through 2029. However, the focus will now turn to health care workers, as lawmakers have passed a separate bill to gradually raise their minimum wage to $25 per hour over the next decade. Governor Newsom has not indicated whether he will sign this bill, as it may come with significant costs to the state’s Medicaid program.
The passage of this law reflects the influence of labor unions in California and their efforts to improve wages and working conditions for fast food workers. It also demonstrates Governor Newsom’s attempt to win back favor with organized labor after vetoing a bill aimed at protecting truck drivers’ jobs. While this law may be viewed through the lens of Newsom’s future political ambitions, it represents an important step in recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of low-wage workers in the fast food industry.