Dear California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and members of the California State Assembly and State Senate:
We, the undersigned organizations, represent a coalition of workers’ rights advocates, labor experts, and civil rights groups from across the country. Our collective work and research have helped to illuminate glaring inequities in our economy, including the fact that a disproportionate share of people working in underpaid, insecure, and unsafe jobs are people of color.
For years, we have also been raising the alarm about the erosion of workers’ power relative to employers, and how that harms us all. But we are in a moment now where we can act decisively to shift that power and move toward an economy—and workplaces—that work for us all.
AB 257 (Holden, Carillo, Low, Rivas), the FAST Recovery Act, is an important step toward improving many of the issues facing California’s fast-food workforce, and crucially, invites the workers who are experts on their workplaces into the process of designing solutions. We respectfully urge California’s Assembly and Senate members to vote AYE on this legislation in January 2022.
This proposed legislation is important for workers across the country and for shaping the future of our national economy. The state of California has a long history of leading the way on workers’ rights and worker protections, including becoming the first state to pass a $15 minimum wage in 2016—a breakthrough that paved the way for states across the country to take similar action.
Nationally, policymakers and analysts continue to look to California as a laboratory for progressive and innovative legislative solutions. As we look ahead to the 2022 legislative session, California legislators must take action to support the state’s 557,000 fast-food workers, nearly 80% of whom are Latino, AAPI, Black, and immigrants.
California fast-food workers have been organizing for eight years with the Fight for $15 and a Union to demand higher wages, safer workplaces, and a strong voice on the job.
In the past year alone, workers have led more than 300 strikes and protests across the state, sounding the alarm on an industry in crisis. Workers are standing up against egregious workplace violations like wage theft, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation for organizing, and health and safety hazards.
Fast-food workers’ power to address these problems, however, is too often limited by the franchise model, in which billion-dollar fast-food companies like McDonald’s retain control of franchisee operations while abdicating responsibility for their front-line workers. This “fissured” industry leaves workers to deal with poor working conditions and leaves small operators with little authority and few resources to address workers’ issues.
AB 257 provides an innovative path toward increasing power and protections for both workers and franchisees in California. Two core elements of the bill work toward “defissuring” the fast-food sector in the state by:
Giving workers and franchisees a seat at the table. The bill creates a statewide Fast-Food Sector Council that brings together front-line fast-food workers, state regulatory agencies, and representatives of both franchisees and their parent corporations. The Fast-Food Sector Council would have the power to raise wages and strengthen health, safety, and working conditions, including training standards and fair scheduling rules.
Holding large fast-food corporations accountable. Corporate fast-food giants like McDonald’s will be required to ensure all their restaurants and franchisees have the resources they need to operate safely and in compliance with the law.
The Fast-Food Sector Council would improve working conditions for half a million California cooks and cashiers, help responsible businesses compete on a fair and level playing field, and ensure that the wealthy corporations do their part.
The exciting opportunity of the Sector Council is that it will bring together workers and employers who really understand the sector to strengthen the regulatory process and make workplaces better for everyone. The structure of the Sector Council will follow a well-established template in California for administrative bodies setting statewide standards.
In addition to addressing issues that fast-food workers have been raising for years, AB 257 also enacts core recommendations of California’s Future of Work Commission—which was led by members from technology, labor, business, education, venture capital, and other sectors—to “empower workers” and “harness the full capabilities and collaboration of all stakeholders” to improve job quality, reduce income inequality, and decrease economic disparities across race and gender.
This legislation already has the support of more than 50 state and national racial, economic, and climate justice groups, faith-based organizations, worker advocates, and labor unions.
California can continue to be a model for economic prosperity rooted in economic justice, but only if legislators take bold steps to empower and protect working Californians like those in the fast-food industry.
We urge an AYE vote on AB 257.
Economic Policy Institute
National Employment Law Project
Asset Building Strategies
California Immigrant Policy Center
Center for American Progress
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa
Center on Policy Initiatives
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
Coalition of Labor Union Women, AFL-CIO
Coalition on Human Needs
Connecticut Voices for Children
Florida Policy Institute
Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute
Indivisible Northern Nevada
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society
Justice at Work
Justice for Migrant Women
Legal Aid at Work
Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy
National Black Worker Center
National Domestic Workers Alliance
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Women’s Law Center
National Workrights Institute
New Jersey Policy Perspective
One Fair Wage
Pittsburgh Black Worker Center
Silicon Valley Rising Action
Social Security Works California
The Purple Campaign
Voices for Progress
Workers’ Rights Institute
Working Partnerships USA