Union affiliates try new tactic to protect California’s new wage law
A group representing the pension funds of several major unions is pressuring six public restaurant giants to participate in California’s new fast-food wage-setting process instead of trying to kill it.
SOC Investment Group wants franchisors to seek seats on the new wage-setting board to be formed under California’s new Fast Act, unless a coalition of fast-food chains succeeds in overturning the law through the through a ballot initiative in 2024.
The law would authorize the council to raise the state minimum wage for units at major fast-food chains to $22 an hour next year, an increase of about 50% from the current floor. But if the coalition garners enough signatures by Dec. 4 to secure a proposal to scrap the 2024 ballot law, enforcement would be delayed until the vote takes place.
Major restaurant chains have donated millions of dollars to the signature campaign.
Instead of going that route, the SOC said on Friday, the big chains should compete for the four seats on the 10-person council that have been set aside for employers. Two of these four positions will go to fast food franchisees, and the other two will go to fast food franchisors.
Four of the 10 seats are reserved for fast food workers and their advocates. Two will be awarded to workers representing the labor pool and two are reserved for union representatives, even though Starbucks is the only nationwide restaurant chain that has been even partially organized.
The last two seats will be filled by state officials.
The board will also have the power to set basic working conditions for fast food workers.
The configuration is unprecedented in the United States. Tuesday’s elections and the Democratic “trifecta” they have created in several state governments – one party controlling the governorship and both houses of the legislature – are expected to see bills similar to the Fast Act in other states.
Starbucks is one of six public catering companies the SOC said it urged to seek employer seats. The others are McDonald’s; Burger King, parent company of Restaurant Brands International; Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut franchisor Yum Brands; Dominoes; and at Wendy’s.
In letters to the six, SOC argued that the council will be good for employers as well as their employees, as stakeholder participation will ensure that the rules it establishes will be real and stabilizing factors.
“Fast food companies like McDonald’s should therefore take the measure and use its influence to stop efforts to undermine the council,” the group said in its letter to the fast food giant.
The group’s move is part of a broader effort by unions to block restaurant chains’ signature drive. Affiliated groups have announced a statewide “strike” against fast food chains participating in the effort. The Fast Act was signed into law through the sustained efforts of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU.
Labor advocates last week brought charges that signature collectors are lying to residents about what they support if they add their names to the petition. The allegations, filed with the California Attorney General, were backed up by secretly recorded videos of signature collectors telling would-be signatories that the petition calls for higher wages for fast service workers, without putting a measure on the 2024 ballot. to kill the Fast Law.
SOC’s effort may carry more weight due to its affiliation with pension funds that claim to hold $250 billion in assets and a large stake in McDonald’s in particular.
These potential investment funds are the pension funds of several unions that have formed an alliance called the Center for Strategic Organizing. It strives to use its investment potential to influence the governance of public companies.
The ballot campaign is managed by Save Local Restaurants, a coalition of the International Franchise Association, the National Restaurant Association and the United States Chamber of Commerce.
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