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The fight over fast food minimum wage

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Employment Law

California fast food workers have won a hard-fought battle for higher wages after over 450 strikes staged since 2020. Confronted by a relentless series of rallies and a groundswell of public support, they’ve pushed the state to legislate for a dramatic hike in the minimum hourly wage from $15 to a robust $20, marking a seismic shift in the fast-food labor landscape.

A tumultuous period

Workers have long decried the $15 wage as inadequate. Reports from the UCLA labor center have uncovered alarming instances of wage theft, meal break denial and workplace trauma. The situation was far from appetizing—workers were bearing the brunt of an industry veiled in violations, and it was the laborer who paid the price, often in more ways than one.

There were even reports by Bloomberg suggesting that Governor Gavin Newsom advocated for a bakery exemption that favored his campaign donor, Greg Flynn, who owns two dozen Panera locations in California. Even though he denied any such influence, the public pressure has been unrelenting.

A new dawn

The persistence of these workers and their advocates did bear fruit: Governor Gavin Newsom’s signed bill is a beacon of hope. Come April 1st, 2024, fast food workers will see a minimum wage increase to $20 per hour. However, this is not just a salary bump. The new wage and hour law involves the creation of a Fast Food Industry Council composed of worker representatives, state regulators, and franchises.

There’s still work to do

If you experienced discrimination or harassment during the strikes, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The DFEH agency enforces California’s civil rights laws, while the EEOC enforces federal laws. Both agencies have strict deadlines for filing complaints, so it’s important to act quickly.

This new legislation is testimony to the power of collective action and the efficacy of organized labor. Yet, the fight for fair wages and just working conditions is far from over. As more states increase their minimum wage, it’s important to continue advocating for workers’ rights and addressing any violations within the fast food industry. After all, the hardworking laborers make these businesses thrive, and they deserve respect and dignity in return.