A new law in California will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour starting next year. This move by the state’s Democratic leaders acknowledges the fact that many of these workers are the primary earners for their low-income households. California already has one of the highest minimum wages in the United States at $15.50 per hour for all other workers. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the law, emphasizing that fast food jobs are not just meant for teenagers to gain work experience, but are actually important contributors to the economy.
This law reflects the influence of labor unions in California and their efforts to improve wages and working conditions for fast food workers. It resolves a dispute between labor and business groups, with labor unions dropping their attempt to hold fast food corporations liable for the actions of their independent franchise operators in exchange for higher pay. The industry, in turn, has agreed to remove a referendum related to worker wages from the 2024 ballot. Democratic Governor Newsom’s signature on this law is seen as a way to mend relations with organized labor after his recent veto of a bill protecting truck drivers’ jobs.
The new minimum wage for fast food workers will apply to restaurants with at least 60 locations nationwide, except for restaurants that make and sell their own bread. The $20 minimum wage is just the starting point, as the law establishes a Fast Food Council with the power to increase the wage each year through 2029. The focus now shifts to another group of low-wage workers in California, as lawmakers have passed a bill to gradually raise the minimum wage for health care workers to $25 per hour over the next decade. However, Governor Newsom has not yet indicated whether he will sign this raise due to concerns about the state’s Medicaid program and the potential cost increase for health care providers.