Campaign to repeal California fast food wage and labor regulation law submits more than 1 million signatures

On Dec. 5, Save Local Restaurants submitted more than 1 million signatures to the California secretary of state to place a veto referendum on the 2024 ballot that would repeal Assembly Bill 257 (AB 257). AB 257 would create a fast food council authorized to increase the minimum wage of workers in the fast-food industry to $22 per hour in 2023 and set working hours and conditions for fast-food workers. The minimum wage in California is set to increase to $15.50 on January 1, 2023.

AB 257 was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 21-12 with seven absent, and it passed the state House by a vote of 47-19 with 14 absent. It was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sept. 5.

Save Local Restaurants filed the referendum on Sept. 6 and had until Dec. 5 to submit 623,212 valid signatures. According to the latest campaign finance filings submitted on Nov. 23, Save Local Restaurants reported over $13.7 million in contributions. The top donors to the committee included Chipotle Mexican Grill ($2 million), In-N-Out Burgers ($2 million), Starbucks ($2 million), Yum! Brands ($1 million), and Wing Stop ($500,000). The International Franchise Association, the National Restaurant Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also endorsed the committee.

Save Local Restaurants said in a statement, “The FAST Act would have an enormous impact on Californians, and clearly voters want a say in whether it should stand. The measure would establish an unelected council to control labor policy in the counter-service restaurant industry, cause food prices to increase by as much as 20% during a period of decades-high inflation, and harm thousands of small family-, minority-, and women-owned businesses across the state.”

SEIU California State Council supports the law. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said, “Ten years after 200 fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City and galvanized an international movement of workers demanding $15/hr and union rights, the passage of AB 257 is the most significant advance in workers’ fight for fairness on the job in a generation. Workers from coast to coast are stepping into their power, and they’ll take their fight to any company in any industry. It’s time for corporations like McDonald’s, Amazon, Starbucks and Delta to come to a national bargaining table to raise standards across their industries and ensure every worker is respected, protected and paid a living wage.”

In 1912, Californians voted on a statewide veto referendum for the first time. The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in 2022, and voters decided to uphold the law. Californians have voted on 50 veto referendums, upholding laws 21 times (42%) and repealing laws 29 times (58%).

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