Most California fast-food workers will receive a minimum wage of $20 an hour starting next year—aa nearly $5-an-hour increase—uunder an agreement released Monday by unions and the industry that represents a costly Referendum on the vote in November 2024.
The mandatory wage increase applies to all fast food restaurants in California that are part of a chain with at least 60 locations nationwide. It does not apply to restaurants that operate a bakery and sell bread as a stand-alone menu item, such as B. Panera Bread. The $20 hourly wage begins April 1, and a council will have the authority to increase it annually through 2029.
Ingrid Vilorio, a fast-food worker at a Jack In The Box restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, said next year’s raise will give her family, which until recently shared a home with two other families, some peace of mind about being able to pay the rent.
“Many of us (in the fast food industry) have to work two jobs to pay the bills. That gives us a little leeway,” said Vilorio, who also works as a nanny.
The agreement ends a tense confrontation between unions and the fast food industry that began last year when California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an initiative to create a fast food council with the power to raise workers’ wages to $22 per hour. The current minimum wage in the state is $15.50 per hour for all industries.
Before the law could take effect, the fast food industry collected enough signatures to put the measure to a referendum in the November 2024 election. That would mean the law would have been put on hold until voters could decide whether or not to repeal it.
Unions angrily backed an initiative this year that would have made fast-food companies like McDonald’s liable for any wrongdoing by franchise operators, most of whom are independent, in the state. Democratic lawmakers also restored funding for the Industrial Welfare Commission, a long-dormant state agency with the authority to set wage standards and working conditions in various industries.
Both measures triggered alarm among business groups. Negotiations between the parties began a few months ago. In exchange for the $20-an-hour minimum wage, unions have withdrawn efforts to hold fast-food companies accountable for labor violations by franchise operators, and lawmakers have eliminated funding for the Industrial Welfare Commission.
The Fast Food Council established with the original initiative remains in place, but it only has the power to set wages, not working conditions. The authority can make recommendations on working conditions to various government bodies.