A new law in California will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour next year, making it the highest guaranteed base salary in the industry. California’s Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed the law, acknowledging that fast food workers are often the primary earners for their low-income households. Newsom emphasized that these jobs are not just for teenagers, but instead are often the main source of income for many workers. This law reflects the power and influence of labor unions in California, who have been working to improve wages and working conditions for fast food workers through organizing efforts. In exchange for higher pay, labor unions have dropped their attempt to hold fast food corporations liable for the actions of their independent franchise operators in California.
The new minimum wage for fast food workers will apply to restaurants with at least 60 locations nationwide, with an exception for restaurants that make and sell their own bread. Currently, California’s fast food workers earn an average of $16.60 per hour, which is below the California Poverty Measure for a family of four. The new $20 minimum wage is just the starting point, as the law includes provisions for annual increases based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index. While fast food workers celebrate this victory, the focus now shifts to another group of low-wage workers waiting for their own minimum wage increase, specifically health care workers. However, it is uncertain whether Governor Newsom will sign the raise for health care workers due to complications with the state’s Medicaid program, which is the main source of revenue for many hospitals.
Supporters of the wage increase argue that the state’s costs will be offset by a reduction in the number of people relying on publicly funded assistance programs. Overall, this law reflects a significant step forward in improving wages and working conditions for fast food workers in California, thanks to the efforts of labor unions and the acknowledgment of their contributions by the state’s Democratic leaders.