California has passed a new law that will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour starting next year. The move recognizes that many of these workers are the primary earners for their low-income households. California already has one of the highest minimum wages in the United States at $15.50 per hour. Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed the law, dismissed the notion that fast food jobs are meant for teenagers, stating that workers in this industry deserve to be rewarded for their contributions and sacrifices. The law reflects the influence of labor unions in the state and settles a dispute between labor and business groups over industry regulations.
The new minimum wage for fast food workers will only apply to restaurants with at least 60 locations nationwide, with an exception for restaurants that make and sell their own bread. Currently, the average hourly wage for fast food workers in California is $16.60, which falls below the California Poverty Measure for a family of four. The new law also establishes a Fast Food Council with the power to increase the minimum wage each year through 2029.
While the focus has been on fast food workers, there is also a separate bill that aims to gradually raise the minimum wage for health care workers in California to $25 per hour over the next decade. However, Governor Newsom has not indicated whether he will sign this bill, citing the potential cost to the state’s Medicaid program. Labor unions argue that the increased wages would be offset by a reduction in the number of people relying on publicly funded assistance programs.