Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin

Owned and Published by the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council, official councils of the AFL-CIO


Fast food workers continue fight for fair wages

By Sheri Williams

After successfully passing a law last year that was set to raise wages for fast food workers up to $22 an hour in 2023, corporate interests have picked another fight with union activists to stop the increase.

Fast food companies including Chipotle, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, In-N-Out Burger and KFC-owner Yum! Brands joined to form a coalition, Save Local Restaurants, that gathered enough signatures against the new law to halt it. Each company donated $1 million to the effort, which collected more than 700,000 valid signatures.

That means it will be left to voters to decide whether AB 257, the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) should remain law. It will be on the ballot during the next general election in 2024.

Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union, told media that her union, which backed the bill, will continue to fight.

“No corporation is more powerful than half a million workers joining together to demand a seat at the table,” Henry said in a written statement to media.

She continued in other media, saying, “Instead of taking responsibility for ensuring workers who fuel their profits are paid a living wage and work in safe, healthy environments, corporations are continuing to drive a race to the bottom in the fast-food industry. … It’s morally wrong, and it’s bad business.”

On its Facebook page, the Fight For $15 Norcal, which has been instrumental in fighting for union rights for fast food workers, wrote, “Let’s be clear: In our fight to pass #AB257, we took on some of the most powerful corporations in the world—and we won. Now, corporations are attempting to exploit our state’s referendum process and silence half a million fast-food workers. We are going to win again.”

When the FAST Act was passed last year, worker’ rights organizations hailed it as a major milestone in creating living wage jobs for service industry workers. The law was considered a model for a nationwide movement that seeks to unionize service workers in industries including fast food and ensure they have pay and working conditions that allow for a life of dignity and security.

“Raising wages for fast-food workers will help vulnerable communities, particularly the Black, Brown and immigrant women who make up the vast majority of fast-food workers in California,” the union said when the bill passed. “This is part of the national wave of worker activism and organizing. Employers need to listen to their workers who are demanding unions and a voice on the job and work with them. Starbucks, McDonald’s, Amazon, Delta—all need to stop fighting their own workers who clearly desire engaging in collective action and having a seat at the bargaining table.”

The bill would also create a new board comprised of representatives from labor and management to set minimum standards for workers in the industry, including for wages, conditions related to health and safety, security in the workplace, the right to take time off from work for protected purposes and protection from discrimination and harassment.

The bill was supported by Democratic legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom when it was passed.

“California is committed to ensuring that the men and women who have helped build our world-class economy are able to share in the state’s prosperity,” said Newsom when he signed the bill on Labor Day. “Today’s action gives hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry. I’m proud to sign this legislation on Labor Day when we pay tribute to the workers who keep our state running as we build a stronger, more inclusive economy for all Californians.”