California has passed a law that will increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour starting next year. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed the law, acknowledging that most fast food workers are the primary earners for their low-income households. The move reflects the influence of labor unions in California, which have been working to improve wages and working conditions for fast food workers. 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. Newsom’s decision to sign the law may help restore favor with organized labor, which criticized him for vetoing a separate bill aimed at protecting truck driver jobs.
California’s current average wage for fast food workers is $16.60 per hour, which is below the California Poverty Measure. The new $20 minimum wage is just a starting point, as the law allows for annual increases through 2029. The law also establishes a Fast Food Council with the power to raise the wage each year based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index. As attention now turns to other low-wage workers in California, lawmakers have passed a separate bill to gradually raise the minimum wage for healthcare workers to $25 per hour over the next decade. However, it is unclear if Governor Newsom will sign this bill due to concerns about the state’s Medicaid program and the increased costs to health care providers. Labor unions argue that the wage increase will be offset by a reduction in the number of people relying on publicly funded assistance programs.