California has passed a new law guaranteeing fast-food workers a minimum wage of $20 per hour and giving them a stronger voice in setting workplace standards.
During an event in Los Angeles, Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized California’s role as a pioneer, saying, “The future happens here first.”
The legislation resulted from a compromise in which fast-food companies dropped their 2024 referendum to repeal a law meant to improve employee wages and working conditions.
Labor unions withdrew their bid to make fast-food corporations responsible for franchisee violations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, the median U.S. fast-food worker earned $13.43 per hour, with Californian workers making an average of $16.60 per hour.
Starting in April, the new minimum wage will amount to an annual salary of $41,600.
California has more than 550,000 fast-food workers at 30,000 locations. Contrary to the stereotype of teenage employees, most of them are family breadwinners. Additionally, 80% are minorities, and two-thirds are women, according to Governor Newsom.
“We’re not just about growth,” he said. “This state is about inclusion.”
The law creates a “Fast Food Council” with worker and employer representatives, granting them the power to approve more wage increases and establish workplace standards. Labor leaders consider this a historic achievement.
California’s general minimum wage stands at $15.50 per hour, one of the highest in the nation. In contrast, the federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour, equivalent to $15,080 annually for a full-time 40-hour workweek, and has not been adjusted since 2009.