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Labor and hospitality experts consider implications of historic CA fast food law

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Lindsey Knewstub

A coalition of restaurant owners have filed a referendum request to temporarily block California’s new law that gives more power to fast food workers.

Patricia Campos-Medina

Executive director of the Worker Institute

Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says labor unrest in the service economy will not go away until workers are remunerated with fair wages and working conditions.

Campos-Medina says:

“The legislation in California giving fast-food workers’ a seat at the table to set minimum standards for wages, hours and working conditions is historic because it finally recognizes that current standards driven by global chains like McDonalds are exploitative and keep women and workers of color poor and in precarious economic conditions.

“This sectoral wide approach to increasing standards for fast-food workers will create a level playing field for small businesses and mom and pop restaurants because corporate giants like McDonalds and other big retail restaurants will be subjected to the same standards, putting more money into workers who can turn around and invest it in their neighborhoods retail stores and restaurants.

“Rather than oppose it, business leaders in California should embrace it and accept standards that apply to all. Labor unrest will not go away until workers in low-wage jobs feel that their essential contribution to our service economy is remunerated with fair wages and working conditions.”


David Sherwyn

Professor of Hospitality Human Resources

David Sherwyn, professor of hospitality human resources and law, is the director of the Cornell University Center for Innovative Hospitality Labor & Employment Relations. He says singling out one industry seems to be a back door to one union's goals, instead of a way to address labor and employment policy.

Sherwyn says: 

"The new legislation creates a council to establish terms and conditions of employment on small businesses that are affiliated with a brand that has 100 more stores in the state. Thus, businesses with 99 stores are exempt. This begs the question: Why regulate only fast food, franchisees and very large chains? Do people who work for smaller companies have fewer needs? Do franchisees of a brand with 99 stores not need regulation? Is this simply a back door for the SEIU to organize the largest chains because it would be better for the parties to negotiate a union contract as opposed to having a council who may, or may not, truly understand each stores economics establish wide ranging polices?

"Labor policy is a dynamic issue with numerous forces affecting every aspect of the business and labor community – singling out one industry, focusing on a model that has benefits small business owners, and limiting it to large brands seems to be more of a back door to one union’s goals instead of thoughtful and wide-ranging way to address labor and employment policy."

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