Michael Hiltzik: The fast-food industry gears up to kill another pro-worker state law | Business News


Political PR and advertising firms in California are going to owe Gov. Gavin Newsom a huge favor. That’s because by signing the so-called Fast Recovery Act on Sept. 5, he opened the door to what could be hundreds of millions of dollars in spending by fast-food companies to kill it.

The act — formally the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, or AB 257 — creates an appointed council that could set wage and other workplace conditions for fast-food workers.

The council would be empowered to set a minimum wage as high as $22 an hour in 2023, though there is reason to doubt that wages would hit that ceiling.

(The state minimum wage, currently $15 an hour for employers of 26 workers or more, and $14 for smaller businesses, will rise to $15.50 for all on Jan. 1.)

The restaurant industry has already taken steps to place the law before voters through a ballot measure.

If the industry can collect about 623,000 valid voter signatures by the first week of December, the referendum would go on the November 2024 ballot and the law would be suspended until then. If the referendum qualifies, voters can expect McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and their ilk to spend gigantic sums to overturn the law.


We’ve witnessed this spectacle before. It has long been evident that California’s initiative and referendum system has become a playground for rich corporations.

In 2020, some $205 million was spent by gig companies to pass Proposition 22, a measure designed to circumvent AB 5, the state law designating app-based drivers as well as other gig workers as employees of the parent firms, not independent contractors.

The spending by Uber, Lyft and other gig companies set a national record for a ballot measure campaign, swamping the $19 million raised to defeat the measure.

For the proponents of Proposition 22, this was money well spent.


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