Crystal Irving, president of SEIU Local 221, joins fast food workers and activists to block traffic outside Jack in the Box headquarters on June 9, 2022. / Photo by Joe Orellana for Voice of San Diego
Fast food workers and activists blocked traffic outside Jack in the Box headquarters on June 9, 2022. / Photo by Joe Orellana for Voice of San Diego

This post originally appeared in the Jan. 26 Morning Report. Subscribe to the free daily newsletter here.

A coalition of restaurants and business groups has successfully placed a referendum on the statewide November 2024 ballot to challenge a new fast-food worker law.

That law, as Jesse Marx previously reported, was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez before she left the Legislature. It’s now on hold. 

AB 257 established a council within the California Department of Industrial Relations made up of workers and employers who promulgate minimum standards on wages, working conditions and training. Workers and union reps argued that the council was necessary because fast-food worker households tend to fall below the poverty line, and because complaints about wage theft and health and safety violations while on the job are common.

Thanks to changes at the last minute, AB 257 did not make fast-food corporations jointly liable for such violations that occur inside a franchise that bears their name, and only applied to a restaurant with 100 or more establishments nationally. It also included a six-year expiration date. 

After losing that battle in Sacramento, the industry is now asking California voters to weigh in.

In a press release, the Save Local Restaurants coalition argued that the new law will cause prices to rise and lead to job loss. The president and CEO of the International Franchise Association said the council is “a solution in search of a problem that didn’t exist.” 

In-N-Out, Chipotle and Starbucks are major backers of the coalition’s campaign committee, contributing $2 million each. 

Gonzalez responded to the news on Twitter: “Pure. Fucking. Greed.” 

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