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Op-Ed: Gov. Newsom, State Legislators Must Act to Protect, Empower Fast Food Workers   – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

Op-Ed: Governor Newsom, State Legislators Must Act to Protect and Empower Fast Food Workers

April Verrett, (photo courtesy)

In January it was Alejandro Garcia, treasurer shot and killed while working at a Taco Bell drive-thru in South LA, he worked alongside his 19-year-old son.

In the months leading up to this tragedy, workers at the site reportedly asked management for reasonable safety measures: armored windows, a panic button and an earlier closing.

The workers’ demands were rejected, and worse, management implied that these measures would not matter because the McDonald’s across the street did not have the same measures.

Incidents of violence at fast food restaurants in the state are all too common. And the workers receiving threats, insults and physical abuse are overwhelmingly black and brown. Violence should not be a normalized job hazard, but recent data tells us otherwise.

Recently report found that more than 77,000 incidents of violence or threats occurred at fast-food restaurants in nine major California cities from 2017 to 2020, for an average of 52 violent incidents each day. In Inglewood alone, there were nearly 3,000 911 calls involving shootings, stabbings, robberies, sexual assaults and other threatening incidents at fast-food outlets during that period.

While some may call for more policing, we know that is not what our communities need. We can curb the violence—and other workplace violations—endemic in the fast-food industry by giving frontline workers the power and platform to shape better policies to prevent these incidents in the first place.

AB 257, the Rapid Recovery Act, is currently moving through the Legislature. This landmark bill would create a Fast Food Industry Council where workers, local franchisees and government agencies can work together to brainstorm and come up with common sense solutions to worker pay, protections, benefits and training.

And it would ensure that global corporations like Taco Bell are responsible for providing local fast-food operators with the resources they need to meet the improved standards.

Achieving a balance in serving small business franchisees, who play a critical role in creating jobs in our communities, and involving workers in the decision-making process is key for California to address an uncertain economy and growing inequality.

In 2020, I served on Governor Newsom’s Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force to help California employers and workers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. While serving on this task force, I learned that the path to success for fast food franchisees is becoming increasingly narrow, especially for franchisees of color, who often face additional barriers to opportunity.

At the same time, California workers face an increasingly narrow path to survival and prosperity.

That’s especially true for the state’s half a million fast-food workers, who are more than twice as likely as other workers to live in poverty. In Los Angeles County alone, two-thirds of fast-food worker families are enrolled in a safety net program, costing the public $1.2 billion annually. Statewide, that figure is $4 billion a year.

This is taxpayer money that should be going to repair roads, fund community clinics and renovate schools instead of subsidizing profitable fast food giants that benefit California business owners and workers alike.

AB 257 corrects the power imbalance in the state’s fast food industry by returning power to our communities and ensuring that companies like McDonald’s pay their fair share.

California has given the nation a road map for how bold policy can lead a state out of the COVID-19 crisis. Let’s not stop there. Now is the time to Governor Newsom and our state legislature to chart a path for how states can step up for their most marginalized workers by supporting AB 257.

April Verrett is the secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union and the 2015 president of SEIU, California’s largest long-term care union.

Op-Ed: Gov. Newsom, State Legislators Must Act to Protect, Empower Fast Food Workers   – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link Op-Ed: Gov. Newsom, State Legislators Must Act to Protect, Empower Fast Food Workers   – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

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