Governor Gavin Newsom could sign a controversial fast food worker bill into law

A bill that would create a council to oversee workplace conditions and wages for fast food workers is on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. 

Assembly Bill 257 was narrowly passed in the state assembly and Senate this week. Newsom has 30 days to sign the bill, which would create an independent council to set standards across the fast food industry on workplace conditions and wages, a first-of-its-kind in the nation.

The bill is supported by Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. Joseph Bryant, Executive Vice President of SEIU International said the bill is needed. He said he has heard stories ranging from workers receiving harassment from customers to workers not being paid for missed breaks.

"It would essentially give over a half million workers in the state of California in the fast food industry a voice and a seat at the table to be able to advocate for their wages, to advocate for their working conditions," Bryant said. "We’re living in a place of have and have nots and you have folks working 50, 60, 70 hours a week and still can’t afford to pay their rent… still can’t afford to provide for their families."

According to SEIU, California fast-food workers have waged more than 400 strikes and filed nearly 300 health, safety and wage complaints with local and state agencies.

Opponents worry about rising costs that the bill would create in an already low profit margin industry.

Jot Condie, President & CEO of the California Restaurant Association, said the fast food industry is one of the best when it comes to labor compliance. 

The bill is based on a myth," Condie said."The sponsors of this bill would have you believe that the restaurant industry are serial violators. That is not true." 

Condie said most franchise owner work alongside their employees in a small restaurant setting, with the overwhelming majority of employees having their voices heard. 

"Effecting and changing fundamental workplace policy should be made by lawmakers who are directly accountable to voters, and yet they’re handing over the keys to the car to a council of unaccountable individuals," Condie said. "What’s the need to create this council when California has some of the most protective laws of worker safety and worker welfare, in the nation, if not the world?"

He is worried about the precedent of having a council to oversee other types of restaurants or industries. But that is exactly what SEIU hopes will happen. Bryant said he wants to this bill be a model for other states. 

"We are extremely confident the governor will stand with workers and pass this bill in the next 30 days," Bryant added.

Newsom has long had the support of the SEIU, but as a restaurant owner has a unique perspective of the challenges of the restaurant industry. His office does not comment on any pending legislation.