Fast-Food Owners in California Forced to Take Political Action After $20 Minimum Wage Law Passes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Business owners in the fast-food industry in California are navigating new political challenges in the wake of the state’s recent fast-food labor law. The law, which took effect this week, mandates a significant increase in the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $20 an hour. A newly established state council will oversee negotiations for annual pay raises and working conditions for the state’s massive fast-food workforce, comprising nearly half a million employees, through at least 2029.

Local restaurant owners, like Harsh Ghai, who operates Burger King franchises, are facing the financial implications of the wage increase and other associated costs. Ghai emphasized the need for active political engagement due to the impact of the law on local franchisees rather than major corporations. The escalated expenses are prompting owners to consider adjustments such as price hikes or even closures of certain establishments.

The closed-door negotiations surrounding the formulation of the law have raised concerns among franchisees who feel sidelined in the process. The involvement of major corporations in the discussions, while excluding franchisees, has heightened the importance of political advocacy. The Service Employees International Union’s influence in California’s political landscape, supported by significant financial contributions, is driving franchise owners to pay closer attention to policy developments.

The SEIU’s efforts to introduce stricter regulations at the local level, particularly targeting fast-food establishments, are raising apprehensions among operators like Ghai. Proposed ordinances, which remain undisclosed, potentially include mandates for employee training and security measures, adding to operational costs and complexities for businesses in the industry. The escalating challenges have led businesses like Handel’s Ice Cream parlor to seek clarity on their status under the new law and engage with lobbyists and lawmakers to voice their concerns.

Amid the uncertainties and complexities introduced by the fast-food labor law, franchise owners are advocating for clearer delineations and exemptions to ensure the legislation aligns with the intended scope. Collaborating with lobbyists and seeking support from lawmakers are essential strategies for businesses grappling with the implications of the new regulations. As the fast-food council continues its deliberations, franchise owners remain vigilant in navigating the evolving political and economic landscape in California.