If there were an annual banquet to reward the worst ideas presented in legislation, California would certainly dominate the competition every year, and this year a bill that threatens to turn the government into a fast food workers’ union could very well win the top prize.
Assembly Bill 257 is entitled “Fast Food Responsibility and Standards Restoration Act (FAST)”. It will establish a “Fast Food Sector Board” of 11 government appointees tasked with regularly reviewing the “adequacy” of health, safety and employment standards in fast food restaurants and then “setting minimum standards for health, safety, wages, working hours for all sectors.” and employment standards.
These standards, which will only apply to fast food restaurants, subject both franchisees and franchisors to fines and other enforcement action by the state’s authorized labor force. The law will make it easier for employees to file claims if they believe they are “fired, discriminated against, or retaliated for exercising their rights” and it allows the labor commissioner to take action against employers even without an employee complaint.
The bill was sponsored by the California Service Workers International Union and Fight for 15, which has been organizing strikes by fast food workers since 2012.
The new “industry council” will be empowered to develop new fast food employment standards in the same way that a union contract negotiating committee would, but with one significant difference: the industry council’s requirements will be enforced by the California state government, not negotiated. to the negotiating table. “Standards” equivalent to contractual requirements will be enforced by the power of the government.
Fast food restaurants are already operating under tough laws and regulations. The Labor Commissioner is already empowered to investigate employee complaints and enforce laws against wage theft and other abuses. Restaurants are already required to comply with Cal/OSHA health and safety regulations, the California Retail Food Code’s hygiene standards for food retailers, California Department of Public Health regulations, and local health departments’ requirements.
Restaurants, including fast food restaurants, are struggling after two years of restrictions due to the pandemic, and many have not survived. Now the survivors are grappling with labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and devastating inflation that is cutting profit margins even as higher prices threaten to alienate customers. AB 257 will add a new state “council” that will continually add new rules and mandates to this beleaguered industry.
While activists like to point out the corporate headquarters of well-known fast food brands, franchisees tend to be small business owners. A franchisor such as McDonald’s does not control every business decision made by a restaurant owner. But AB 257 seeks to hold “billion-dollar companies” like McDonald’s “responsible” for “workplace injustices” as defined by the industry council, in addition to current legal requirements that apply to other businesses.
California is regularly cited in business publications as one of the worst states in which to do business, with high taxes, excessive regulation, and laws that allow for unfounded lawsuits. AB 257 is excellent even for California. The State Senate must quickly strike down this bill before the threat of this additional and unnecessary regulation forces any more business owners to close their doors for good.