Former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez rallies fast food workers outside Jack in the Box headquarters on June 9, 2022. / Photo by Joe Orellana

This post originally appeared in the June 29 Morning Report. Get the daily newsletter in your inbox here.

A bill to establish a fast-food sector council in California passed another hurdle on Tuesday, clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The original iteration of AB 257 was introduced by Lorena Gonzalez before she left the Assembly. She and others rallied outside the San Diego headquarters of Jack in the Box last month for a new statewide body that could set minimum standards on wages, working conditions and training. The bill now gives the Legislature the right to modify or prevent any proposals from taking effect. 

Fast-food workers and union leaders say the bill is necessary because of the low pay, wage theft and working conditions. At Tuesday’s hearing, one worker said her manager denied her time off after a miscarriage. Before voting yes, Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco said the nation’s labor laws and the franchise model have made it nearly impossible to collectively bargaining across the industry. 

Opponents, including chamber groups and business owners, argued that existing state law is already sufficient to penalize both franchisees and fast-food corporations if they break the law. The bill would make corporations jointly liable for any violations, causing one owner to complain that franchisees would effectively become middle managers. 

Assemblyman Chris Holden promised to keep working with opponents on possible amendments, so the bill might change in the coming weeks. Sen. Brian Jones, who represents parts of East and North County, voted no but did not say why. 

Jesse Marx

Jesse Marx is Voice of San Diego's associate editor.

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