🍔 California's Fast Food Order
Call it the results of the Fight For 15 movement. Call it a response to the unionizing frenzy sweeping Starbucks, Chipotle, and other fast food chains around the country. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new law establishing a 10-member council overseeing the state's fast food industry. The council will be able to raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour (over the state's current $15 an hour) and set other labor regulations, reports The New York Times.
Labor unions, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), cheered the bill's passage. “If you see me crying today it’s (because) I’m completely filled with joy. 550k+ fast food workers finally got their seat at the table to set their working conditions,” Tia Orr, SEIU's California head, wrote on Twitter, notes the Sacramento Bee.
David Weil, who ran the federal office that oversaw the federal minimum wage, told The Times that fast food workers are uniquely vulnerable to workplace exploitation and other labor violations, which means “you need to have government play a larger role than it would in other cases.”
Meanwhile, franchise owners and other industry bigwigs opposed the bill. “This bill has been built on a lie, and now small business owners, their employees, and their customers will have to pay the price,” the International Franchise Association head Matthew Haller wrote in a statement. “This bill is a fork in the eye to franchise owners and customers at a time when it hurts most.”
The Labor Rights Moment
From Amazon warehouses to railroad tracks to Starbucks counters – American workers are having a moment as the effects of the pandemic on the nation's economy shake out. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest JOLTS report (which tracks current job openings in the economy) shows 11.2 million job openings as of the end of July. That means there are currently about 2 jobs for every 1 person looking for work — a staggering figure that gives employees across the country massive leveraging power. “The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged workers' understanding of their own worth,” Maximillian Alvarez of The Real News Network, told the PBS Newshour. “I think that that has had a lot to do with the growing labor movement in this country.”
California has long been a bellwether of democratic and progressive policies for the rest of the nation. For the state to create a special labor standards council for one of the most traditionally marginalized and exploited workforces is a sign that we are in the midst of a serious labor moment. May that spread throughout the rest of the economy.