Senate to Consider Bill to Give Fast Food Workers Power to Bargain with Industry

For three days in April, an amazing group of Jack in the Box cashiers and cooks closed their store in Sacramento County. They called for better schedules, more staff and management to repair a broken ice machine.

They also called for changing their industry.

Workers wear red shirts from decade-old “Fight for $ 15” minimum wage campaign, called for Assembly Bill 257.

AB 257 threatens to improve California’s fast food franchise business model. It will create a state-run council to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions for an industry that, according to federal data, employs more than 700,000 people in the state.

Under the bill, employers will be responsible for regulations, but fast food corporations also partner with franchisees.

The move is set to be heard in the state Senate committee next week, When organizers plan a series of coordinated strikes In fast food stores in San Diego, Los Angeles, Auckland and Sacramento.

“AB 257 will force them to change – will hold them accountable,” said 26-year-old Adonida Bricino, a Jack in the Box employee who took part in the April strike.

Potential foothold

The International Service Workers Union’s push to move AB 257 is one of the organization’s most significant efforts in its “fight for $ 15” campaign, an opportunity for a foothold in the low-wage industry where the union has long eluded.

California provided ground for the union’s efforts to support low-wage workers. Los Angeles adopted a minimum wage of $ 15 in 2015 and the state followed suit in 2016.

But franchisees and franchisees say that AB 257 is unnecessary and burdensome and cost effective for working class customers.

“Inflation is at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” said Jeff Hanscom, a spokesman for the International Franchise Association, which represents corporations and franchisees. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Gene Ardman, who works for a company that owns 235 Pizza Hut franchise sites in Southern California, said the council would increase costs and blackmail businesses.

“It’s not the relationship with the franchisee,” Ardman said. “What makes it hard to make money is what we’re dealing with from a California regulatory perspective.”

After narrowly passing the state assembly in January, the bill is due to get its first Senate hearing on June 8th.

Solution or excessive

Senator Dave Cortez, a San Jose Democrat who chairs the Senate committee hearing the bill, said he supports rooting out wage theft, one of the law’s purposes, but he fears establishing a broad-body law and regulating would be like “using a meat shredder instead of a scalpel” on the problem.

“We just have to be careful about wage-raising from an independent council,” he said. “In difficult times, you need to be able to make course corrections.”

Senator Josh Newman, a healthy Democrat who is on the fence, said it would be “no small feat to create a new body to oversee an entire industry.”

While the plague eliminated the food inside, large corporate restaurant chains were more successful than locally owned neighborhoods because of their size and cash retention. Fast food restaurants, in particular, had more experience with travel, transportation, and delivery options.

California has the most fast food workers in the state. In April, more than 725,000 workers were employed in California’s limited food industry, which includes fast food workers as well as those working in fast-paced factories, pizzerias and cafes. This is higher than before the epidemic and 11% higher than the corresponding month last year.

California fast-food counters earned $ 15.61 an hour and cook an average of $ 15.35, according to federal data from last May.

Few fast food stores were incorporated. The organizers blame this on the high turnover of employees and the thousands of individual franchisee owners with whom they will have to bargain.

Drop into a bucket

There has been a trickle of successful Starbucks union elections this year, but these stores are owned by one corporate employer and not by franchisees. They represent a “drop in the bucket” of fast food places, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a work historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Leticia Rice, 55, a Sacramento County Jack in the Box, said workers like her do not benefit from the industry’s growth. She went through the plague, despite her fears of getting sick, because her husband was fired from his job as a hotel chef.

“They make millions and millions of dollars from us, the workers,” Rice said. “And we’m not very sure.”

The restaurant was frequently busy and staffless and the road was busy.

One day last June, the air conditioner broke and temperatures soared to 109 degrees, according to a complaint filed by Rice and six other employees to the California Department of Occupational Safety.

“The principal told us it’s not hot, we’m going through menopause,” Rice said. “We had to bring fans from our homes to withstand the heat.”

Employee complaints

Workers went on strike for one day, prompting the manager to repair the air conditioning, Rice said.

A few days later, on August 3, workers filed a complaint of theft of wages to the state labor commissioner, alleging that owner Anil Yadav cheated on wage workers and prevented them from taking breaks, including during 16-hour shifts.

Yadav did not answer phone calls, please respond. Yadav’s lawyer, Kevin Kaborkian, declined to comment.

Workers went on strike again in April, after filing a second CalOSHA complaint citing mold machines, a hole in the ceiling that brought in rain and faulty speakers that they said led to the customer pulling out a gun at the cashier.

This complaint also said that workers, including a pregnant worker, had to climb on a table to rake ice for customers from a broken device. Copies of CalOSHA complaints and wage theft complaints were provided to CalMatters by SEIU.

California fast-food workers have gone on strike 2,560 times since the epidemic began, the SEIU said. The union also helped workers file more than 330 health, workplace, and salary complaints in California.

CalOSHA has released 38 COVID-related violations at fast-food factories that have affected a small portion of the industry, the California Restaurant Association noted.

California has some of the most stringent workers’ protection laws in the state, the union argues, so the state should instead fund investigators of wage theft and violations in its workplace.

The franchise system

“We believe the system is set to be strong and protective,” said Matt Sutton, a spokesman for the association. “People have a track, and they use it all the time.”

But franchise systems leave business owners little room for overhead, leading them to cut corners and pay low wages, critics say.

“The corporations – the McDonald’s, the Jack in the Box, the Burger Kings – in planning have created this system as a means of reducing the power of working people,” said David Huerta, president of California State Council SEIU. “We try to resolve that and create an environment where employees have a direct voice with their employers.”

Fast food corporations have long ruled out legal liability for how franchisees treat employees. Under former President Donald Trump, the Department of Labor has curbed cases in which corporations have been considered “joint employers” of restaurant workers, though under President Joe Biden, the same agency has reversed that regulation.

The SEIU and its allies in the state legislature want California to establish joint liability, while holding franchisees accountable for violations of labor laws in their franchisees’ places.

Therefore, the Association of Restaurants and Fast Food Store Owners feared that franchisees of companies would attract opportunities in the field which they said have lower entry barriers for small and minority business owners than other organizations.

Joint Council

The bill would create an 11-member council composed of representatives of businesses, workers and countries. It will set horizontal standards for fast food chains with 30 seats or more, franchised or not.

“This is sweeping legislation for the entire country,” said Hershraj Jai, whose company, Ghai Management Services, is one of the largest franchisees in the country with about 200 Burger Kings, Taco Bless and Popsies stores employing more than 4,000. “The rules will be set for markets like Fresno and San Francisco – anyway.”

Guy said his father started working for Burger Kings when his family immigrated from India in the 1990s and operated his first franchise in 1999.

He fears that state-wide council laws will raise costs when inflation is already squeezing its profit margins. Most of his places are in California.

“It’s going to make it harder for us to continue staffing our restaurants,” he said.

One of his burger king places in the Sacramento area was the site of a rally for AB 257 in May. Workers complained about broken AC. He said the equipment had been replaced and the store underwent a CalOSHA inspection this week after employees filed a complaint. This labor enforcement system, he said, is the right way to resolve employee complaints.

Sectoral bargaining

Similar to the fast food push, nursing home workers, who are also supported by SEIU, have asked state legislators Create a board Monitor their industry.

The so-called “Sectoral bargainingCommon access in Europe, including Austria and France. This allows employees to bargain with employers in the industry and not in any store or business.

While some local governments and states in the US Enacted Industry-specific boards To dictate working conditions, the SEIU Fast Food Council push is more ambitious, said David Madland, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

“You have the potential to turn the industry from a really low-wage sector – with little ability to change – into a model for other sectors,” Madland said.

Despite this, the idea is not new to California. For most of the 20th century, the state issued industry-specific wage orders through the industrial welfare commission appointed by the governor to cover excluded workers.

In wide-ranging sectors such as films, canning and herding, the committee set standards such as the duration of breaks, the supply of uniforms and the temperature of workplaces. It even had the power to dictate the state’s minimum wage.

Today 17 industries still operate under its orders even though the board itself is not. It was shut down in 2004 at the request of Labor after years of political controversy, including loose regulations.

As for Sacramento County Jack in the Box, Rice says the strikes have yielded some results. Managers repaired the broken ice machine and air conditioning unit. And paid her part of the salary she said they owed her.

But forming a union to ensure long-term change is impossible in its store, Rice said, because many workers are scared and that’s why a bill is needed nationwide.

Alejandro Lazo and Jean Kuang are reporters at CalMatters. This article is part of California Division Project, a collaboration between newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.

Senate to Consider Bill to Give Fast Food Workers Power to Bargain with Industry Source link Senate to Consider Bill to Give Fast Food Workers Power to Bargain with Industry

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