Labor airs its next set of demands from California's Fast Food Council

The newly formed California Fast Food Workers Union is already looking to raise the $20-an-hour minimum wage that takes effect April 1.
Gov. Gavin Newsom after creating the Fast Food Council | Photo: Shutterstock

California’s new system for setting fast-food wages won’t go into effect for another two weeks, but organized labor has already revealed what it will demand next from the paymasters who’ll be in charge.

The Service Employers International Union (SEIU) was an architect of the new pay-setting model, whose foundation is a nine-person panel called the Fast Food Council. That group is scheduled to meet for the first time on Friday, March 15.

At that initial get-together, the Council need not address wage adjustments for the remainder of 2024. Under the law creating the panel, the minimum wage for employees of California fast-food restaurants with at least 60 branches nationwide will jump by 25% on April 1, to $20 an hour.

But a new affiliate of the SEIU, a first-of-its-kind labor group called the California Fast Food Workers Union, pledged Thursday to push the Council for a 3.5% additional hike in the minimum wage starting Jan. 1, to $20.70. That’s the largest increase permitted under law.

The Council is also empowered to recommend changes in workplace standards for the state’s fast-food industry, which eclipses the quick-service business of any other state. That input will then be weighed by state agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board.

On Thursday, the California Fast Food Workers Union previewed what it will lobby the Council to recommend. Included are limits on when fast-food workers can be fired, and a minimum number of hours a quick-service employer has to provide employees.

The group also said it will lean on state agencies to investigate the business for allegedly exposing workers on a routine basis to violence, unbearably hot kitchens and sexual harassment.

Seats on the Council have been given to Joseph Bryant, executive vice president of the SEIU, and Maria Maldonado, director of the California Fast Food Workers Union. Labor is also represented by two other members, the fast-food workers Anniesha Williams and Angelica Hernandez, both of whom were appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It is not clear if Williams and Hernandez are members of the fast-food union.

Representing employers are Michaela Mendelsohn, a six-unit El Pollo Loco franchisee, and SG Ellison, CEO of the 300-store Taco Bell and Arby’s franchisee Diversified Restaurant Co.

Serving as proxies for fast-food franchisors are Joe Johal, CEO of the Wendy’s operation that runs corporate stores in the state, and Richard Reinis, an attorney and former CEO of Great Circle Family Foods, a Krispy Kreme area developer.   

The Council is chaired by an industry outsider, Nicholas Hardeman, chief of staff since 2016 for California Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni G. Atkins. Hardeman is expected to cast the deciding vote in any deadlock between the labor and employer representatives.

The Council’s first meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. in Oakland.











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