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California’s Ambitious Fast-Food Law Heads to Statewide Referendum for Final Verdict

AB 257 would create a board of 11 appointees to negotiate on behalf of fast food workers in California

Last month, the California Secretary of State’s office certified a referendum to postpone Assembly Bill 257. This initiative, known as the Fast Recovery Act, was launched by Save Local Restaurants — a group of franchisers and restaurant business associations.

The law would have gone into effect on January 1, 2023, and enabled a government panel to set hourly wages for fast-food workers up to $22 per hour and reinforced workplace standards. The wages could then increase annually in line with the consumer-price index, up to 3.5%.

McDonald’s President Joe Erlinger has spoken out against this bill, claiming it creates an unequal playing field by not applying to restaurants that bake bread or businesses with fewer than 100 locations. He emphasizes that even small businesses need fair treatment if they are operating within larger chains such as McDonald’s — one franchisee could be forced to raise its minimum wage up to $22 an hour, whereas another owner with twenty places outside of chain networks will not be affected by the law’s requirements.

On the other hand, labor unions across California back the bill to ensure minimum wage protections for any hourly workers. Despite industry opposition and complaints about potential impacts on companies’ financial performance, Save Local Restaurants submitted over 1 million signatures which surpassed the 623,000 required amount for validation and therefore placing this matter on November 2024 ballot.

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