SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new law in California will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour next year, a recognition by the state’s Democratic leaders that many of the often overlooked workers are the main earners of their low-income households.
When it takes effect on April 1, fast food workers in California will enjoy the highest guaranteed base pay in the industry. The state’s minimum wage for all other workers — $15.50 an hour — is already among the highest in the United States.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law Thursday amid a crowd of applauding workers and union leaders at an event in Los Angeles. Newsom rejected the popular view that fast food jobs are for teenagers to get their first taste of the job market.
“It’s a fictionalized version of a world that doesn’t exist,” Newsom said. “We have an opportunity to reward that contribution, reward that sacrifice and stabilize an industry.”
Newsom’s signing reflects the power and influence of unions in the nation’s most populous state, which have worked to organize fast food workers in an effort to improve their wages and working conditions.
It also ends — at least for now — a conflict between unions and business groups over how to regulate the industry. In exchange for higher wages, unions abandoned their attempt to hold fast-food companies responsible for the misdeeds of their independent franchisees in California, an action that could have upended the business model the industry relies on. The industry, for its part, agreed to remove a referendum on workers’ wages from the 2024 ballot.
“It was a tectonic plate that had to be moved,” Newsom said, referring to the more than 100 hours of negotiations needed to reach agreement on the bills during the final weeks of the state legislative session .
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union International, said the law caps it at 10 years on the job, including 450 strikes across the state in the past two years.
The moment was almost too hard for Anneisha Williams, who fought back tears as she spoke at a news conference just before Newsom signed the bill. Williams, a mother of six children – seven if you count her beloved dog – works at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Inglewood.
“They were with me on the picket line and they marched with me, too,” Williams said of her children. “It’s for them.”
Newsom signing the law could win back favor with unions, which sharply criticized him last week for vetoing a separate bill aimed at protecting truck drivers’ jobs amid rising pressure autonomous driving technology. Unions played an important role in Newsom’s political rise in California, providing a reliable source of campaign funding.
Newsom’s appearance in Los Angeles comes a day after Republican presidential candidates — but not Donald Trump — showed up at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley for their second televised debate. Newsom, while denying any interest in a White House run, has positioned himself as a foil to GOP contenders and traveled the country criticizing conservative positions on abortion and gun rights. His actions on hundreds of bills before him can be viewed through the prism of his future political ambitions.
The new minimum wage for fast food workers will apply to restaurants with at least 60 locations nationwide, except restaurants that make and sell their own bread, like Panera Bread.
Currently, California fast food workers earn an average of $16.60 per hour, or just over $34,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s below California’s poverty measure for a family of four, a statistic calculated by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Equality that takes into account housing costs and state-funded benefits. ‘State.
The new $20 minimum wage is just a starting point. The law creates a Fast Food Council that has the authority to increase that wage each year through 2029 by 3.5 percent or the change in the average U.S. Consumer Price Index for urban workers. and office workers, whichever is lower.
Now the focus will shift to another group of low-wage California workers who are awaiting their own minimum wage increase. Lawmakers passed a separate bill earlier this month that would gradually increase the minimum wage for health care workers to $25 an hour over the next decade. This increase would not apply to doctors and nurses, but to almost all other workers working in hospitals, dialysis clinics or other health care settings.
But unlike the fast-food wage increase — which Newsom helped negotiate — the governor has not said whether he would sign the healthcare worker raise. The problem is complicated by the state’s Medicaid program, which is the primary source of revenue for many hospitals. The Newsom administration has estimated that the wage increase would cost the state billions of dollars in increased payments to health care providers.
Unions that support the wage increase cite a study by the University of California, Berkeley, Labor Center that found the costs to the state would be offset by a reduction in the number of people relying on state-funded aid programs. the state.
Associated Press reporter Michael R. Blood contributed from Los Angeles.