Amid growing awareness of inequality and jobs that don’t pay enough to cover child care and housing, California is considering a radical proposal: Allow the state to negotiate wages, hours and work conditions for an entire industry.
Proponents in the state Legislature say one solution to inequality is to empower workers to negotiate through unions, but that’s not happening in the fast food industry where frequent turnover, inexperience and intimidation make it too difficult for workers to organize. Only 3% of fast food and counter workers belong to unions nationwide.
In Sacramento, a union-backed Democratic proposal called the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, or FAST Recovery Act, would establish a state-appointed council to enact industry-wide minimum standards for wages, working hours and work conditions. If passed by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the proposal would also hold corporate franchisors responsible for compliance, not just the local franchise owners.
“California has the opportunity to really pave a path forward in a way that can work for both workers and employers,” said David Madland, a senior adviser to the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington, D.C., think tank.