Hundreds of fast food workers gathered in Los Angeles on Friday, February 9, to show support for a newly formed union aimed at preserving annual wage increases, increasing work hours, and strengthening workplace protections. We rallied. (Photo courtesy of California Fast Food Workers Union)
Hundreds of fast food workers gathered in Los Angeles on Friday, February 9, to rally support for a newly formed union aimed at ensuring decent wages, increased work hours, and stronger workplace protections. did.
The California Fast Food Workers Union will partner with the International Federation of Service Employees Unions, which led a campaign to raise California’s minimum wage to $20 an hour for certain fast food workers.
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Friday’s rally at the South Central Avenue offices of the Watts Workers Community Action Committee was held to promote membership in the new union, which supporters say is the first of its kind in the country. .
One industry expert called it a “fake union” with virtually no teeth.
Because it is not a traditional union with elections certified by the National Labor Relations Board, it would lack the protections of federal labor laws that require fast food employers to sit down and negotiate contracts.
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The traditional approach requires organizing into stores, many of which are owned by franchisees. That requires a long and arduous process, as evidenced by Starbucks. At Starbucks, employees have worked long and hard to unionize 370 of its more than 15,000 stores.
“SEIU believes that all workers have the right to join a union, whether or not their workplace has a collective bargaining agreement,” supporters of the new union said in a statement. “Workers just need to fill out a union membership form.”
Michael Saltzman, executive director of the Employment Policy Institute, called the new union a “sham” with no funding mechanism and “no apparent authority other than to gather feedback from the union’s existing supporters.” No,” he said.
“I would say they didn’t want to go store by store because they know they can’t win store by store,” he said.
But others, including July Monroy, who has worked at a McDonald’s in Los Angeles for three years, are hopeful for the change she’s been waiting for.
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“We need to be protected as soon as possible and not be treated like trash,” said the 40-year-old Los Angeles resident. “At my place of work, the air conditioning was off during the summer, and the temperature near the grill reached nearly 120 degrees. Management didn’t fix it until winter.”
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Fast food workers in California are already gaining momentum in their fight for higher wages.
SEIU’s campaign ultimately led to the passage of Assembly Bill 1228, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year.
The bill, which goes into effect April 1 for companies with 60 or more locations across the country, would raise the minimum wage for California’s more than 500,000 cooks and cashiers to $20 an hour over the next three years. There will be a 3.5% annual salary increase.
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This will affect McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box, Subway and more.
AB 1228 also establishes a Statewide Fast Food Council with the authority to establish sector-wide minimum standards for wages, hours of work, and other health, safety, and welfare-related issues for fast food restaurant employees. To do.
The International Franchise Association says the impact of AB 1228 will increase each restaurant’s operating costs by approximately $250,000.
“Food prices are going to have to go up, customers are going to feel it, and restaurateurs are going to have to add more while keeping small businesses afloat,” said Jeff Hanscom, the association’s vice president for state and local government relations. “We will look for other ways to control costs.” .
The Wall Street Journal reported that fast food prices in California are among the highest in the nation and will rise even more thanks to the SEIU-backed wage mandate.
Malcolm Coleman, who works at Taco Bell in Los Angeles and another small eatery in Burbank, hopes the new union will help him get more hours.
“I don’t have 40 hours,” said the 33-year-old man from Los Angeles. “I have colleagues who work only 20 hours a week, and I have colleagues who work much less than that.”
Coleman said the wage increase to $20 an hour will make a difference in her life.
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“You’ll be able to pay your bills more on time,” he said. “If you want to go out and do something in Los Angeles, you have to work two jobs. It’s an expensive city to live in.”
Coleman said Taco Bell employees have never tried to form a union.
“I’m concerned about influence from management,” he said. “Plus, you don’t know who’s going to come back and accuse you of them.”