retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that the California State Senate and Assembly have both passed a new bill that "aims to improve and standardize working conditions for fast-food workers," creating a new state Fast Food Council that would have "the authority to establish standards for wages, working hours and conditions," and would include representatives from both management and labor.

According to the story, "The bill establishes that legislators will have sufficient time to review and potentially block any standards set by the council, and the council has a sunset in six years, allowing legislators to evaluate its effectiveness.  The new version of the bill also limits the minimum wage from rising above $22 an hour in 2023."

The bill, while supported by organized labor forces, has been "heavily opposed by the California Restaurant Assn., International Franchise Assn. and California Chamber of Commerce," as well as other pro-business organizations.

The Times writes that it is by no means a certainty that the bill will be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who "has not stated a position on the bill."  However, the Governor's but his Department of Finance "released an analysis in June opposing the measure, saying it would create 'significant ongoing costs' at the Department of Industrial Relations and a 'fragmented regulatory and legal environment' for employers."

KC's View:

My general approach to such things is that good public policy does not carve out different approaches to different industries when it comes to things like wages and in-common working conditions.  Just as I thought it was a mistake for the state to mandate higher pay just for grocery workers during the pandemic, I think it does not make sense to treat fast food workers differently in terms of setting higher floors for their pay and benefit packages.  It sets a bad precedent, and also eliminates the ability for one fast food chain to differentiate itself in the eyes and employees and consumers with a stronger offering to its workers.

As much as I like the idea of both management and labor serving on the council, I'm just not sure that mandating it will solve anything.