Whiteney & Spencer News

Fast Food Employees In California Will Now Earn $20 Hourly

The hourly wage for half a million fast food employees in California will now be $20.

Up from $4 below the state minimum wage, nearly half a million fast food employees in California were making at least $20 per hour as of Monday.

The new rate, which is applicable to restaurant companies that is, Fast food operators with more than 60 outlets nationally, is the outcome of laborers’ years-long struggle for improved pay and working conditions, particularly in California’s fast-food sector.

The bill also establishes the first-ever fast food council in the United States, with representatives from the restaurant sector and labor unions. The council will have the authority to raise wages yearly for the remainder of the decade, either in line with inflation or up to 3.5%, whichever is higher. This council is able to also recommend standards for fast-food worker safety and work with existing state agencies to investigate issues like wage theft.

“I definitely think it’s a very big deal,” said Jaylene Loubet, who works as a McDonald’s cashier. “What we’re fighting for is not unreasonable. We’re just asking for what’s fair.”

However, the owners of some fast food franchise sites claim that they have already lowered employee hours, raised menu pricing, or done both in preparation for this additional expense in the last few months. Furthermore, a lot of the impacted proprietors just have one restaurant.


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A franchisee named to the new council, Michaela Mendelsohn, stated: “There’s talk about showing both sides of this.” It seems to be one-sided to me. I believe that in order for us to succeed, our staff members must also succeed together.

A joyous and lavish meal

Currently holding 18 McDonald’s restaurants, Scott Rodrick opened his first one in the San Francisco Bay area thirty years ago.

Overall, according to Rodrick, he has increased rates by 5% to 7% over the past three months to anticipate the higher wages.

“As a business owner, when you’re dealing with this kind of extraordinary overnight change, you know, a 25% increase in wages,… (no) stone has to remain unturned,” Rodrick said. “And so we have looked at price, although I can’t charge $20 for a Happy Meal. My customers’ appetite to absorb menu board prices is not unlimited.”

Rodrick stated that rather than reducing employee hours, he would expand his delivery business and decide whether to postpone major capital expenditures like remodeling a dining room or delaying the purchase of new grills or rooftop air conditioning systems.

Six-location El Pollo Loco owner Mendelsohn has always supported workers’ rights, including assisting transgender people in finding employment.

“In the world of McDonald’s, human beings make hamburgers, human beings smile at customers in the drive-thru, human beings build Happy Meals. And while we have relied far more today on technology than ever before, it’s not supplanted the importance of human beings in the workplace, I’ve just been able to reallocate where they work within the restaurant,” Rodrick said.

However, in her opinion, it is not optimal to abruptly raise one sector’s pay: “You’re placing people in a desperate situation when you specialize just in fast food and grow so quickly. How do we make it?” she enquired. However, price increases and labor shortages are the two basic strategies. And at this moment, neither of us wants to have to do either.

Mendelsohn noted that in anticipation of the pay increases, the prices of her menu items have gone up by roughly 3% to 4% since February. By the following week, she intends to install self-serve kiosks in place of rehiring the departed employees. Next year, she might add artificial intelligence to the drive-thrus.

“I just wish it was being done over a longer period of time and it wasn’t just fast food,” Mendelsohn said. She said the state’s previous $15 minimum wage worked, because it was implemented over several years’ time and applied to every business.

Workers are struggling financially and feel unsafe.

Loubet, who has been a college student and a McDonald’s cashier for six years, said she resides in the same one-bedroom apartment as her parents that they have shared since the 1990s.

Her mom has spent nine years working at the same McDonald’s. According to Loubet, her mother’s pay increased from roughly $15 per hour to roughly $17 in that span of time that was nowhere near keeping pace with inflation.

They’re hoping to move out of their apartment for a little more space.

“We’re actually looking outside of Los Angeles, just because with our salaries, it’s just impossible to look for anything lower than $1,000 for a basic studio apartment,” Loubet said. “Even if we stayed in Los Angeles and were earning $20 an hour, it would still put a strain on our finances just because, right now we’re only talking about rent. And that doesn’t include bills and food, and stuff like that. With the way the cost of living is rising in Los Angeles, and our pay is barely rising as it is, people need to realize that $20 is still not enough to feel secure.”

She views security as having a small amount of cash on hand for emergencies, or in her family’s case, a sudden loss of income due to her father’s injury that prevented him from working as a builder.

But there is more to this law than money.

When a customer once asked to use the restroom, Loubet recalls the incident as follows: “I asked him to give me a minute to open it while I grab someone’s food.” And he was already holding a knife to another customer when I turned around. There are some things like this that you just never anticipate happening.

Loubet is hopeful that the newly established council would be able to work with current state agencies to address security and safety regulations at fast-food establishments, suggest modifications, and conduct investigations on workers complaints

Fast-food council establishes a standard
Mendelsohn, a council member, expressed concern about an increase in crime generally but expressed reluctance to impose additional regulations on specific restaurant owners.

March saw the inaugural meeting of the new council.

Advocates for workers expect that this council would address fair compensation as well as make sure that schedules provide enough hours for employees to support themselves and add further safeguards against arbitrary, unjust terminations.

They also believe that the council will be able to address issues related to fair working conditions, such as pay fraud, extreme heat, and workplace violence.

“It’s kind of in a way the great American experiment,” Mendelsohn said.“I love this nation. It’s so polarized on all these issues and to bring everybody together in one room to talk to each other and hopefully listen and understand – I think it’s a major step forward.”

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