The California State Senate on Monday passed a heavily amended version of Assembly Bill 257, also known as the FAST Recovery Act.
The controversial legislation — approved by the Senate on a 21-to-21 vote — would create a state-run council to set minimum standards for wages, hours and working conditions for the more than 550,000 fast-food employees in California, most of whom are Black or Latino.
The bill will next head back to the state Assembly for re-approval before landing on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into law. The measure first passed the State Assembly in January.
It’s considered historic because it would give fast-food workers a stronger voice on the job. The Service Employees International Union has been pushing for the passage of AB 257 as part of its “Fight for $15 and a Union” campaign.
Fast-food workers caravaned across Orange County last month to demand passage of the bill. But Stop AB 257, a coalition of franchisees and franchisors who oppose the measure, have been quick to attack the legislation.
They say it would fuel higher consumer prices, and the group notes that California already has some of the strongest worker protection laws in the nation.
“Franchising has opened the door for hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and millions of workers to establish a career,” the International Franchise Association (IFA) said in a statement released Monday. “But this bill stands to break all that down while raising prices for Californians and forcing restaurants to close their doors.”
The IFA said polling shows that less than a third of Californians support AB 257, and new research from the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development estimates food prices could in hike prices by as much as 20% for Californians while also harming local businesses.
Previous versions of the bill applied to chains as small as 30 units, and would have also held franchisors responsible for ensuring franchisees complied with health and labor laws. Amendments to the bill on Aug. 25 stripped those provisions, while also altering the composition of the fast-food standards council.
The council proposed by the Senate’s amended version would be composed of 10 representatives: one from the state Department of Industrial Relations; two representatives each from fast food franchisees, fast food franchisors, fast food workers and fast food worker advocates; and one representative of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
The amended law says the council would be barred from issuing new rules until after “the director of Industrial Relations receives a petition approving the creation of the council signed by at least 10,000 California fast food restaurant employees.”