Members of California's new fast-food wage-setting body are named

Unions will have a large presence on the nine-member Fast Food Council, which will be chaired by a career Senate staff member.
Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed political veteran Nicholas Hardeman to chair the newly created Fast Food Council. | Photo: Shutterstock

The nine individuals who will determine the pay scale of most California fast-food workers through 2029 were revealed Friday, three weeks before the inaugural meeting of the Fast Food Council is required to take place.

The nine-member council will adjust the pay of fast-food workers by up to 3% annually beginning in 2025. They will also have the authority to recommend changes in the working conditions of fast-food restaurants to the state Department of Labor.

The starting point for those annual reviews of fast-food wages is April 1, when the minimum wage for most fast-food workers jumps to $20 an hour.

The panel’s composition was set in AB 1228, a first-of-its-kind law that shifts the wage-setting function for the California’s fast-food business from the state legislature to the Council. The hourly pay it sets will be the mandated minimum for any quick-service restaurant in the state that’s part of a chain with at least 60 branches nationwide. Some bakery-cafes are exempted, as are any grab-and-go places within supermarkets.

By law, the Council must include two fast-food employees; two labor advocates; two quick-service franchisees; two proxies of fast-food franchisors; and a chairman with no connection to the restaurant business. The theory is that fast-food workers and employers will have equal weight, with a neutral chairman having the potentially tie-breaking vote on a proposal.  

That all-important chairman, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is political veteran Nicholas Hardeman, chief of staff since 2016 for California Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni G. Atkins.

Joining him on the Council are…

  • SG Ellison, CEO of the 300-store Taco Bell and Arby’s franchisee Diversified Restaurant Co.
  • Michaela Mendelsohn, CEO of the six-unit El Pollo Loco franchisee Pollo West Corp. and an outspoken critic of the new wage-setting model.
  • Anneisha Williams, a shift leader within a Jack in the Box restaurant for three years and a member of the newly formed California Fast Food Workers Union, a non-traditional labor group whose ranks are drawn from a variety of companies rather than from a single employer.
  • Angelia Hernandez, a cook and trainer at McDonald’s since 2012.
  • Joe Johal, CEO since 2002 of Wendy’s of California, the operator of corporate Wendy’s stores in the state.
  • Richard Reinis, an attorney whose resume includes a six-year stint as general counsel and CEO of Great Circle Family Foods, a Krispy Kreme franchisee and area developer. Reinis will apparently serve as a proxy for franchisors, along with Johal.
  • Maria Maldonado, an SEIU veteran who is now deputy field director for the California Fast Food Workers Union. She was appointed as the one Council pick that was allotted to state Assemby Speaker Robert Rivas.
  • Joseph Bryant, international executive vice president of the SEIU and the one appointee of the state Senate.

AB 1227 requires the Council to meet for the first time no latter than March 22, according to the California Restaurant Association.

The law specifies that the Council will not disband before the end of 2029.

Under the measure, appointments to the Council need not be ratified by the legislature, and the appointees will be paid a fee of $100 per year for their services.


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