California governor raises fast food workers to $20 an hour
California fast food workers will be paid at least $20 an hour next year under a new law signed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
When it takes effect on April 1, fast food workers in California will have one of the highest minimum wages in the country, according to data compiled by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California-Berkeley. The state minimum wage for all other workers ( $15.50 per hour ) is already among the highest in the United States.
Fast food workers and union leaders gathered around Newsom as he signed the bill at an event in Los Angeles.
Newsom's signature on Thursday reflects the power and influence of unions in the country's most populous state, who have worked to organize fast food workers in an attempt to improve their wages and working conditions.
It also resolves, at least for now, a fight between labor and business groups over how to regulate the industry. In exchange for higher wages, unions have abandoned their attempt to hold fast-food corporations accountable for the misdeeds of their independent franchise operators in California, a move that could have upended the business model on which the industry is based. . Meanwhile, the industry agreed to remove a referendum related to worker wages from the 2024 vote.
“This is for my ancestors. This is for all the farm workers, for all the cotton pickers. This is for them. We stand on their shoulders,” said Anneisha Williams, who works at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Southern California.
California fast food workers earn an average of $16.60 an hour, or just over $34,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's below the California Poverty Measure for a family of four, a statistic calculated by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Equality that takes into account housing costs and publicly funded benefits. public funds.
In California, most fast food workers are over 18 years old and are the main providers for their families, according to Enrique Lópezlira, director of the Low Wage Work Program at the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center.
The $20 minimum wage is just a starting point. The law creates a fast food board that has the power to increase that wage each year through 2029 by 3.5% or the change in the U.S. Consumer Price Index averages for urban wage earners and white-collar workers. , whichever is less.
The increase takes effect April 1 and applies to restaurant workers with at least 60 locations nationwide, with the exception of restaurants that make and sell their own bread, such as Panera Bread.
Now, attention will turn to another group of low-wage California workers awaiting their own minimum wage increase. Lawmakers passed a separate bill earlier this month that would gradually raise the minimum wage for health care workers to $25 an hour over the next decade. That increase would not apply to doctors and nurses, but to almost everyone else who works in hospitals, dialysis clinics or other health care facilities.
But unlike the fast food wage increase, which Newsom helped negotiate, the governor has not said whether he would sign the raise for health care workers. The issue is complicated by the state's Medicaid program, which is the main source of revenue for many hospitals. The Newsom administration has estimated that the pay increase would cost the state billions of dollars in increased payments to health care providers.
Unions supporting the wage increase point to a study by the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center that said the state's costs would be offset by a reduction in the number of people relying on publicly funded assistance programs.
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