‘Time to get to work’ As Corporate Fast Food Interest Groups Drop Referendum Efforts, California Workers, SEIU Leaders Prepare for Implementation of Landmark Statewide Fast Food Council ‘Time to get to work’

Press Contact:
Isabel Urbano, isabel.urbano@seiu.org, 650-580-1896
Mike Roth, mike@paschalroth.com, 916-813-1554
Spanish language: Maria Elena Jauregui, mariaelenajauregui@gmail.com, 818-355-5291
December 29, 2023

CALIFORNIA — As the new year approaches, California fast food cooks and cashiers, organizing with the Service Employees International Union, are preparing for the implementation of the nation’s first-ever Fast Food Council. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1228, a bill that establishes the sector-wide council and secures a $20/hour statewide raise for more than half a million California fast-food workers.  

The implementation of AB 1228 is contingent upon the fast-food industry dropping its referendum of 2022’s FAST Recovery Act. On Friday, corporate interest groups that had mounted an effort to overturn the law via referendum officially withdrew their efforts, clearing the way for the law to go into effect.

The statewide Fast Food Council provides a groundbreaking vehicle for fast-food workers, employers, the public and key state agencies to develop minimum sectoral standards on wages, working hours and workplace conditions. The $20/hour statewide minimum wage for all California fast-food workers will go into effect 4/1/2024, and the council is authorized to set  annual raises through 2029. The law covers fast-food chains with more than 60 locations nationally.

“It’s time to get to work!  After ten years of organizing, going on strike and never backing down, even in the face of a referendum, California fast-food workers finally have a seat at the table.  At the Fast Food Council, workers like me will have an official venue to not only raise our concerns, but to shape real improvements to our pay, working conditions and working hours.  We now have the power to win transformational changes for every fast-food cook, cashier and barista in our state.” Anneisha Williams, a Los Angeles Jack in the Box worker and leader in California’s fast-food worker movement.

“With this referendum behind us and the work of setting up a fast food council ahead of us, we are ushering in a new era of worker power and worker voice in California. Every single worker – Black, Brown, white, immigrant, or nonimmigrant, deserves a seat at the table, living wages, safety, and respect. Fast food workers, through their courage and activism, are leading the way; this tremendous victory is a direct result of their organizing, speaking out, and never backing down, even in the face of tremendous pressure and retaliation.” Tia Orr, Executive Director of SEIU California.

“2024 will bring the implementation of the nation’s first-ever Fast Food Council where fast-food workers and employers will work together to improve conditions around wages, hours and working conditions. At the top of workers’ list will be strengthening their job security including protections against unjust firings and retaliation for organizing efforts and bringing stability to the jobs that their families rely on. No one should fear losing a paycheck without a fair and transparent process. Together we can make California’s fast-food industry safer and more sustainable for frontline workers and local franchisees alike.” Joseph Bryant, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union

“The members of SEIU in California are proud to have provided essential support for California’s fast food workers. Together, we have been able to use our strength to help open the door to historic change, and we believe that all California’s workers will ultimately benefit. We won’t rest until we achieve that goal.” David Green, President of SEIU Local 721 and Executive Board Member, SEIU California

“After a decade of strikes, organizing and militant action in the streets, California fast-food workers are showing the world what it looks like when working people seize their power and rewrite the rules to work for them. The Fast Food Council provides a powerful tool for empowering vulnerable workers and improving the economic stability of their families.” Theresa Rutherford, President, SEIU Local 1021

Fast Food Council has Power to Address Racial, Economic Inequities in California

The creation of a California Fast Food Council has been heralded as one of the most significant pieces of employment legislation in a generation. As California faces a persistent crisis of racial and economic inequality, the establishment of a Fast Food Council represents an opportunity for workers, employers and state officials to come together to help communities across the state address the rising cost of living and improve health and safety conditions on the job.

California fast-food workers are paid $3/hr less than comparable service-sector workers.  They are also more than twice as likely to live in poverty than other workers, and more likely to rely on public assistance. In a recent survey, an astonishing 85% of respondents reported experiencing wage theft while working in fast-food. The industry’s inadequate wages also contribute to the ongoing homelessness crisis gripping communities across the state.  In fact, 1 in 17 unhoused California workers are employed in fast-food.