For California's Fast-Food Workers, Monday Is a Big Day

New state law mandating $20 an hour takes effect
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 31, 2024 8:54 AM CDT
For California's Fast-Food Workers, Monday Is a Big Day
An employee makes pretzels at an Auntie Anne's and Cinnabon store in Livermore, Calif.   (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

Most fast-food workers in California will be paid at least $20 an hour beginning Monday when a new law is scheduled to kick in, per the AP.

  • Democrats in the state Legislature passed the law last year in part as an acknowledgement that many of the more than 500,000 people who work in fast-food restaurants are not teenagers earning spending money, but adults working to support their families.
  • The law applies to restaurants offering limited or no table service and that are part of a national chain with at least 60 establishments nationwide. Restaurants operating inside a grocery establishment are exempt, as are restaurants producing and selling bread as a stand-alone menu item.

  • The law was supported by the trade association representing fast-food franchise owners, but since it passed, many franchise owners have bemoaned the impact. For example, Alex Johnson, owner of 10 Auntie Anne's Pretzels and Cinnabon restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he will have to raise prices 5% to 15% at his stores and is no longer hiring or seeking to open new locations. "I try to do right by my employees. I pay them as much as I can. But this law is really hitting our operations hard," Johnson said.
  • Over the past decade, California has doubled its minimum wage for most workers to $16 per hour. A big concern over that time was whether the increase would cause some workers to lose their jobs as employers' expenses increased. Instead, data showed wages went up and employment did not fall, said Michael Reich, a labor economics professor at the University of California-Berkeley. "I was surprised at how little, or how difficult it was to find disemployment effects. If anything, we find positive employment effects," Reich said.
(More California stories.)

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