California restaurants want fast food law passed

California restaurants are hoping to prevent implementation of the new fast food wage law by putting it in the hands of voters.

Recently, a group of restaurateurs, franchisees, workers, consumers and community organizations formed Protect Neighborhood Restaurants, a coalition that tabled a referendum proposal to end the Fast Act, a law that would allow a panel of 10 people to regulate fast-food wages in California. If the referendum request is approved, the coalition would have less than 90 days to collect more than 623,212 signatures, or 5% of the total vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election. If all signatures are collected within the appropriate timeframe and pass all checks, the referendum will appear on the 2024 general election ballot. The coalition’s efforts are supported by the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association.

The group is banking on the fact that a statewide poll showed that less than a third of Californians support the law and that the California Department of Finance opposed its passage.

“As a result of behind-the-scenes politics, Governor Newsom signed a lie into law and decried all small quick service businesses and local franchisees in California as bad employers,” the coalition said in a statement. “AB 257 should never have been introduced, it should never have passed, and it should never have been signed into law by the governor. … It’s only right that California voters have a voice before they take on the burden of a bill that has been widely heralded as a massive step in the wrong direction. California’s elected leaders have failed in their responsibility to represent the interests of their electorate.”

The Fast Act, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Labor Day, gives the state panel the power to raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour next year, and up to to 3.5% each year thereafter. The new law covers fast-food chains that have 100 or more locations nationwide. It still takes a petition signed by 10,000 fast food workers to approve the creation of the council.

The UC Riverside School of Business found that a minimum wage set between $22 and $43 would inflate labor costs by 60% and raise prices by 20%, raising widespread concerns among restaurants and franchisees .

“As a McDonald’s franchisee for over 20 years, I have had the opportunity to open doors for thousands of employees and their families by providing competitive wages and benefits and an inclusive work environment. My people are the backbone of my business and will always come first,” Harris Liu, a Sacramento-based franchisee, said in a statement. “But instead of approving legislation that benefits all workers, Governor Newsom is creating an uneven playing field that threatens small business owners and communities across the state. Our elected leaders can and must do better.

Labor rights organizations applauded the legislation. They point to a Harvard and University of California, San Francisco study that found fast food workers are paid 85 cents on the dollar compared to non-fast food workers.

“We took on the most powerful corporations in the world and won a seat at the table to raise standards in the fast food industry,” Sandro Flores, a Los Angeles-based Carl’s Jr. employee and leader in the fight for $15 and a Union said in a statement. “But instead of sitting at the table and working with us to improve the industry for workers, franchisees and consumers, global billion-dollar corporations plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent us from having a voice at work.”

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