California Increases Fast Food Worker Minimum Wage

In April 2024, California’s 500,000+ fast food workers will get a pay raise! The California minimum wage is increasing to $20 per hour for fast food workers. This is an increase from the current minimum wage of $15.50, which was set to increase to $16 an hour on January 1st.

In September 2023, California Governor Gavin Newson signed the new legislation (AB 1228), which also authorized the Fast Food Council to set fast food restaurant standards for minimum wage and working conditions. This was good news for the many fast food workers across the state who have been fighting for better wages and safer working conditions.

Understanding AB 1228

California has taken a bold step to improve the lives of fast food workers. The new minimum wage and Fast Food Council will give workers a greater voice in their industry and ensure they are paid fairly and treated with dignity.

If you’re a fast food worker in California, it is important to understand your new rights and what AB 1228 really does.

Key Facts:

  • California has raised the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour starting on April 1, 2024.
  • This is the highest minimum wage for fast food workers in the United States.
  • The Fast Food Council, a new body of workers, employers, and government officials, will set minimum standards for wages, working conditions, and training in the fast food industry.
  • The Council can increase the minimum wage for fast food workers annually. This is capped at 3.5% or the annual increase in the US Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.
  • The Council can only set these wages until January 1, 2029.

Why Raise the Minimum Wage for Fast Food Employees?

Raising the minimum wage for fast food workers was necessary to protect Californians and the economy. California lawmakers and the general public must understand the issues facing fast food workers in this economy and why raising the minimum wage benefits us all.

Fast food workers are one of the largest occupational groups in the United States, and they are also one of the lowest-paid. Because of this, many struggle to afford basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare. Raising the minimum wage helps them to meet these basic needs and improve their overall standard of living.

When every worker has enough money to live, and have housing,in the United States, every American benefits from it. When low-wage workers have more money to spend, they are more likely to spend it on goods and services, which can boost the economy.

The Cost of Living in California & Its Impact on Fast Food Workers

The cost of living in California is very high. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, the cost of living in California is 41% higher than the national average.

Inflation has been rising rapidly in recent months. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the cost of a basket of goods and services, increased by 8.2% in the last year and is now the highest rate in nearly 40 years.

Fast food worker wages in California have not kept pace with the rising cost of living. The minimum wage in California for fast food workers is currently $16.21 per hour. This is less than the living wage in many parts of the state.

For example, the living wage in Los Angeles is $25.25 per hour for a single adult with no children. This means that fast food workers in Los Angeles earn significantly less than they need to afford to live comfortably.

Raising the minimum wage for fast food workers in California is essential to helping them meet their basic needs, reduce poverty and inequality, boost the economy, and attract and retain workers. And employers should want employees to receive a living wage to boost productivity and morale and reduce workplace accidents.

What Will the New Fast Food Council Do?

The Fast Food Council was recently appointed by Governor Newsom to issue, amend, or repeal rules and regulations for the fast food industry. This group of ten members is made up of members from fast food restaurant franchisors, franchisees, employees, and others who will come together to protect fast food workers and ensure they have a living wage.

The Council will be able to increase the hourly minimum wage for fast food workers through 2029, as well as recommend labor, health, and safety standards that would impact working conditions.

California’s Long Minimum Wage History

California has a long history of leading the charge when it comes to labor rights and minimum wage policies in the United States. The Golden State has consistently been at the forefront of progressive wage legislation, setting the pace for the rest of the country.

California’s commitment to fair wages for employees dates back several decades, and it has implemented various minimum wage increases over the years. With one of the largest and most diverse populations in the country, California faces complex labor challenges that demand innovative solutions.

The state’s approach to addressing wage inequality, through employment laws like the Fair Employment & Housing Act and California’s Labor Code, has been instrumental in shaping nationwide labor policies. Other states often look to California as a bellwether, using its labor initiatives as a reference point when considering their own legislative changes.

Notable Minimum Wage Milestones

2001 – First Minimum Wage Increase: California began significantly improving workers’ conditions in 2001. It was then that the state first set its minimum wage above the federal minimum, which stood at $5.15 per hour. California raised its minimum wage to $6.75, offering a more livable wage to its workforce.

2014 – The Fight for $15 Begins: In 2014: California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that set the state on the path toward a $15 minimum wage. This landmark decision was a game-changer, as it set the stage for a substantial wage increase that would have a profound impact on millions of low-wage workers.

California’s history of minimum wage increases and its latest endeavor with AB 1228 show the state’s ongoing dedication to improving the quality of life for all its residents. As California continues to lead the way in worker protection and fair wages, it remains a shining example of progressive labor policy in the United States.

California Cities Often Set Their Own Minimum Wage

In addition to state-level action, many cities within California have independently raised their minimum wages, recognizing the varying cost of living in different regions. This approach has allowed local communities to address wage disparities more effectively.

Here are a few notable California cities that have implemented their own minimum wage ordinances:

  • Los Angeles: Los Angeles was one of the first major cities in California to adopt its own minimum wage increase. At the time of this writing, workers in Los Angeles can expect a minimum wage of $16.90 an hour.
  • San Francisco: San Francisco, known for its high cost of living, has been a leader in minimum wage policies. The city’s current minimum wage is $18.07 an hour.
  • San Jose: San Jose, another high-cost area in the state, approved its minimum wage ordinance in 2012. Currently, the minimum wage in San Jose is $17 an hour.
  • West Hollywood: In West Hollywood, employees can expect a minimum wage of $19.08 right now. They lead the state with the highest minimum wage for workers. They also lead the nation, and as of 2023, they have the highest minimum wage of any U.S. city.
  • Berkeley: In Berkeley, a city with a strong tradition of social and environmental activism, the minimum wage was increased independently of state legislation. As of today, the minimum wage in Berkeley is $18.07 per hour.

Contact Our California Employment Law Attorneys

Are you an employee in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, or Riverside who is facing an employment issue, such as a minimum wage violation? If so, you need experienced and qualified minimum wage lawyer from the start. The attorneys at V. James DeSimone Law have over 30 years of experience representing employees in a wide range of employment law matters.

We understand that dealing with an employment issue can be stressful and overwhelming. That’s why we offer free, no-obligation consultations to ascertain whether you have a claim we can assist on. Call us today at (310) 693-5561 or fill out our contact form to speak with someone at our law firm.

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