Minn. is set to give restaurants a preview of the Fast Act's impact

Working Lunch: Nursing-home workers will now get a say in what they should be paid, a setup organized labor views as an alternate way of delivering the benefits of collective bargaining. Restaurants need to push back on what's now a trend.

Fast-food chains will get a preview of what to expect from California’s Fast Act when a similar law takes effect for nursing-home workers in Minnesota, as listeners will learn from this week’s Working Lunch podcast.

The measure, like the Fast Act, shifts responsibility for setting the wages and working conditions for a specific industry from the state legislature to a council that includes the very employees who would be affected—essentially giving the workers a loud voice on their own pay.  The workers hold as many votes on pay and other costs to employers as the employers themselves.

Under the law passed last month by Minnesota’s legislature, the first recommendations should be issued by August 2024, or three months before voters in California decide via referendum on whether to implement the Fast Act. The fast-food law is on hold until then.

Although Minnesota’s wage and workplace-standards council will only have authority over employees of nursing homes, it should be taken as a wake-up call by restaurant employers everywhere, said the co-hosts of Working Lunch, the government-affairs veterans Joe Kefauver and Franklin Coley.

“It will create a new type of laboratory to test out this sectoral bargaining model,” Coley notes during the broadcast.

That model—involving employees in the process of setting wages—is being embraced by organized labor as a way of strengthening workers’ hand in contract negotiations without reverting to traditional collective bargaining, where the threat of a strike is the source of their might.

“The employer community is a little bit asleep at the switch on this one,” Coley said. “Whether we pay attention or not, the other side is paying attention here.”

He also noted that the sectoral bargaining model is gaining prevalence in the U.S. after emerging as a common wage-setting method elsewhere in the world. Councils with the authority to set wages and working conditions have been put in place for healthcare workers in five states and several local jurisdictions since 2018.

“The employer community has got to start pushing back on this stuff in an organized way,” said Coley, a principal along with Kefauver in an Orlando, Fla.-based government affairs consultancy, Align Public Strategies.

For a deeper understanding of sectoral bargaining and its implications for restaurants, download the episode from wherever you get your podcasts.

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