Los Angeles eyes new packet of benefits for fast-food workers

Legislation proposed to the City Council on Tuesday would require employers to provide additional training, more paid time off and advance shift scheduling.
Opponents say the law would further drive up fast-food prices. | Photo: Shutterstock

Fast-food restaurants in Los Angeles would be required to provide employees with a six-hour orientation on their workplace rights and schedule shifts at least two weeks in advance under a legislative proposal submitted Tuesday to the City Council.

The bill, introduced by former hospitality labor union employee Hugo Soto-Martinez, would also grant fast-food workers an hour of paid vacation time for every 30 hours they work, in addition to the five days of paid sick leave that is already mandated from California employers.

Council Members Curren Price, a pro-labor longtime veteran of the legislative body, and Katy Yaroslavsky, a relative newcomer, are co-sponsors. They would need to win the support of just five other members of the 15-person Council for the bill to pass by a simple majority.

The Council has already awarded the benefits to retail workers in the city. So-called Fair Work Week legislation for that business sector was approved about three months ago. Tuesday’s bill essentially extends the perks to Los Angeles’ estimated 50,000 fast-food workers.

The bill’s introduction immediately sounded a battle alert for state-level worker and employer advocacy groups.

The California Fast Food Workers Union, a newly formed labor group that asserts it speaks for all quick-service workers in the state, immediately issued accounts of employer atrocities that would be averted in the future if the fast-food legislation passes.

The cited examples included the instance of a fast-food worker awakening in an ambulance after fainting on the job from excessive heat, and a pregnant worker whose boss refused to let her go home while she was suffering chills and otherwise showing symptoms of a fever.

When the massive corporations who employ us steal our wages, change our schedules without notice and hinder our access to paid leave and other programs, it injures us and the communities around us,” Anneisha Williams, an employee of a Los Angeles Jack in the Box, was quoted as saying in the statement. “By passing the Fast Food Fair Work Ordinance, the Los Angeles City Council can ensure we’re able to advocate for ourselves and safely provide for our families.”

Save Local Restaurants, a pro-employer group, assailed the legislation as one more crippling burden that threatens the ability of many minority- and female-owned fast-food restaurants to remain in business. It also asserted that consumers would suffer because quick-service restaurants would be forced to raise prices.

It contended that the city’s fast-food restaurants are already spending an average rate of $250,000 per year to cover California’s new $20-an-hour minimum wage for most quick-service employees. The new pay floor took effect in April.

Like the Fast Food Workers Union, the employer group quoted members to illustrate the grassroots effects of the proposed bill.

“Since the higher state minimum wage set in, I’ve had to raise my menu prices and cut employee hours to make ends meet,” Juancarlos Chacon, a nine-unit local Jersey Mike’s franchisee, was quoted as saying. “I cannot absorb any additional costs without drastic changes, including closing one or more of my restaurants. I hope the LA City Council rejects this very bad idea.”

“Enough is enough,” read the quote from Blaze Pizza franchisee Ben Salehi. “Stop attacking small business owners like us who create jobs and generate revenue for the city.”

A number of cities, including New York and Chicago, already have Fair Work Week legislation in effect.

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