By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Fast food workers braved the 100-degree heat and rallied outside of the California Capitol in Sacramento Tuesday to urge lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom to support a bill that they say will provide fair wages and greater protections for fast food workers.
The workers – who pitched tents to spend the night on the capitol lawn Tuesday night – held signs and led chants in support of Assembly Bill 257, which would establish a Fast Food Sector Council at the state level that would set “sector wide minimum standards” for wages, hours and working conditions for fast food workers.
The council would be composed of 13 members appointed by the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee. They would be tasked with setting minimum fast food employment standards in regards to wages, work conditions and training.
The bill is likely to be heard on the floor of the Senate in the coming days after passing through the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
Supporters of the initiative say the bill will offer a “seat at the table” for more than 550,000 fast food workers in the state who have historically been subject to unsafe work conditions, low wages and wage theft. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, addressed workers at a rally outside the capitol Tuesday, telling the crowd that the council will ensure that workers have “a voice in how you are treated in the workplace.”
“It’s a shame that we’re here in 2022 and still fighting for some of the basic things that should’ve been happening a long time ago for the fast food workers that serve our community every day, even through a pandemic and not get treated right,” Assemblyman Holden said. “(AB 257) is to turn it around – to turn it around in your favor to make sure workers are protected.”
The legislation is backed by dozens of labor groups across the state, including the powerful California Labor Federation and the SEIU, but faces opposition from dozens of local chambers of commerce across the state, as well as chain store 7Eleven.
A coalition opposed to the measure, including the California Restaurant Association and the California Chamber of Commerce, argues that the bill “delegates the authority reserved to the California legislature” to a council of “unelected persons.”
“The Council would have the authority to issue entirely new and different labor, employment, wage and hour, and health and safety standards that apply exclusively to counter-service restaurants,” the coalition wrote in opposition, according to a bill analysis.
Backers of the bill say it’s about the fast food workers who are “some of the lowest paid, least protected workers in our state,” the bill’s co-author, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, told The Center Square in a statement.
“Earlier this year, a fast food worker was shot and killed in Los Angeles after refusing to accept a counterfeit bill, while working the same shift as his 19-year old-son,” Assemblywoman Carrillo said. “This legislation is important, because it creates a mechanism to raise overall standards and protections in the fast food industry through input from workers and employers.”
Ms. Carrillo added that the bill stands to benefit Latino, black and immigrant workers who make up a large sector of California’s fast food workers.
After moving its way through the Legislature over the last seven months, authors of the bill say they are pushing to get this bill through the Legislature and on to the governor’s desk.
“We’re expecting good things to happen, but we’re not there yet, so let’s keep pressing in and makes sure that this gets out of the Senate, comes back to the Assembly, and we’ll send it, guaranteed, to the governor so we can get the governor’s signature on AB 257,” Mr. Holden said during Tuesday’s rally.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.