A bill that could be considered by the state Senate in the coming weeks aims to empower fast-food workers, but critics claim the overregulation of the industry could hurt businesses and customers.
Assembly Bill 257, aka the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act or FAST Recovery Act, would create a 13-person council consisting of industry representatives — including fast-food workers — who would establish standards for wages and working conditions.
“AB 257 creates minimum standards for wages and work conditions, protects workers from being fired for organizing and establish sectoral organizing with a fast food worker council. This is not bureaucracy but rather giving employees the chance to be included in a process that has always impacted them. As for the costs that are being publicized, consumers are willing to pay for ethics in day to day operations and we have seen consumers drive impactful sustainability policy just like AB 257,” the bill’s author, Assemblymember Chris Holden of Pasadena, said in a statement provided to KTLA.
It would also hold corporations like McDonald’s and Subway legally responsible for making sure franchisees comply with health and safety laws.
“It’s a way to close a gap between the franchisees who typically run many of the restaurants in any given market and the corporate parents who distance themselves from the practices of the franchisees,” said KTLA consumer expert David Lazarus.
Lazarus argues that the industry has seen wage theft and safety concerns, which might indicate some oversight is needed.
“If the industry is not able to deliver the goods for its workforce and customers, then that’s why you have regulation,” he said.
Business groups, however, aren’t convinced, with some critics believing that the bill would drive up food costs, which would then increase prices for consumers.
“It’s probably one of the more dangerous bills we have seen in a long time,” argued Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Association.
Condie also believes the industry does not need more oversight.
“Quick service restaurants are one of the more compliant business categories in California…California already has some of the most protective worker protection laws and regulations in the nation,” Condie said.
Restaurant owners and operators are also concerned, including Blair Salisbury of El Cholo Café in Pasadena, who had plans to expand into the fast-food market by franchising 19 Daddy’s Chicken Shack locations.
“People don’t realize our industry, the struggles we are going through, even before COVID,” Salisbury said.
The bill, which passed the Assembly in January, is expected to be read on the Senate floor next week. If it passes, Salisbury said he may take his chicken elsewhere.
“Maybe it’s something we’ll consider, moving to another state,” he said.