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Fast food workers to get a $20 minimum wage in CA

Gov. Newsom signs AB 1228, raising the minimum wage for fast food workers
Gov. Newsom signs AB 1228, raising the minimum wage for fast food workers 01:11

California fast food workers will be paid at least $20 per hour next year under a new law signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

When it takes effect on April 1, fast food workers in the state will have among the highest minimum wages in the country, according to data compiled by the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. The state's minimum wage for all other workers is at $15.50 per hour and is already among the highest in the nation.

Newsom's signature on Thursday reflects the power and influence of labor unions in the nation's most populous state, which have worked to organize fast food workers in an attempt to improve their wages and working conditions.  

It also settles, for now, a fight between labor and business groups over how to regulate the industry. In exchange for higher pay, labor unions have dropped their attempt to make fast food corporations liable for the misdeeds of their independent franchise operators in California, an action that could have upended the business model on which the industry is based. The industry, meanwhile, has agreed to pull a referendum related to worker wages off the 2024 ballot.  

"This is for my ancestors. This is for all the farm works, all the cotton-pickers. This is for them. We ride on their shoulders," said Anneisha Williams, who works at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Southern California.

California's fast food workers earn an average of $16.60 per hour, or just over $34,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The $20 minimum wage is just a starting point. The law creates a fast food council that has the power to increase that wage each year through 2029 by 3.5% or the change in averages for the U.S. Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, whichever is lower.

The raise takes effect on April 1 and applies to workers at restaurants that have at least 60 locations nationwide — with an exception for restaurants that make and sell their own bread, like Panera Bread.

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