AB-257: The FAST Recovery Act

Written By:

Tatiana Pagan

Publishing Date: 

November 13, 2022

With the continuing struggles for Starbucks union workers, and food service workers picketing in front of Mayo Clinic, many in the industry are left wondering: Will work conditions ever improve? Recent California legislation says yes.

 

First introduced in January of 2021, AB-257–better known as the Fast Food Accountability and Standard Act (FAST Recovery Act)–will establish a Fast Food Council until January 1st of 2029. The council will work with the Department of Industrial Relations to do the following:

 

“[...] to establish sectorwide minimum standards on wages, working hours, and other working conditions related to the health, safety, and welfare of, and supplying the necessary cost of proper living to, fast food restaurant workers, as well as effecting interagency coordination and prompt agency responses in this regard.”

 

The reasons cited for the creation of this law include low pay with few benefits, lack of proper protection for workers, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and discrimination, among other things.

 

Lorena Gonzalez, the original author of the bill, says “We’re looking to give workers a voice on the job, and for workers in the fast-food industry” and that “traditional organizing hasn’t worked.” While that may be true, it is worth noting that unions and labor allies have been organizing strikes and lobby trips to both Sacramento and Washington D.C. Some of the largest unions even sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking that he “support and champion” the bill. These efforts, combined, succeeded in their goal; the FAST Recovery Act was signed into law on August 29, 2022.

 

This victory wasn’t without its challenges. Numerous amendments have been made since the bill was first introduced in 2021. An earlier version of the FAST Recovery Act called for fast-food franchisors to “be jointly and severally liable for wage and labor violations at franchisee locations.” This would make both the individual location and the franchise itself responsible. The current bill has no such provision.

 

Though this is a step in the right direction, there are several concerns that have been raised by opponents of the bill. Some[BHV1] , like Jot Condie—president of the California Restaurant Association—are worried that the creation of the Fast Food Council will ultimately bypass the Legislator via their own rule-making authority. Sean Redmond, known for his role as the vice president of labor policy at the US Chamber of Commerce, has stated that the bill will “micromanage the fast-food industry” and that “consumers will bear the consequences” due to a raise in prices.

 

The hope is that, by passing the FAST Recovery Act, workers can take another step towards sectoral bargaining, where unions negotiate for workers’ rights across an entire industry. The practice, while common in Europe, is not as common in the United States. This is because current law focuses on what is known as enterprise-based bargaining, where unions negotiate for individual worksites.

 

The FAST Recovery Act adds to the ongoing discussion of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO.) First introduced to Congress in 2019, the bill will–if passed–expand coverage under the National Labor Protections Act (NLRA) and include more workers. It will also help in safeguarding the right to strike, improving purchasing power to workers, and streamlining procedures of the NLR Board.

 

Although progress has been slow, the accomplishments of workers cannot be ignored. They provide a renewed inspiration for expanding the rights of workers across all sectors and across the country.

 [BHV1]This isn’t super necessary if it disrupts the word count or flow, but it might be helpful to include Jot Condie and Sean Redmond’s title, so readers know why their opinions are relevant to the discussion. I’ll leave it up to your discretion though since it is hyperlinked, and readers could go find out for themselves relatively easily.

Sources

  1. California Legislative Information. (30 August 2022). AB-257 Food facilities and employment. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB257

  2. Cohen, R. (15 August 2022). California could change how fast food workers are treated. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2022/8/15/23296481/fast-food-ab257-california-sectoral-labor-unions

  3. Ding, J. and Hussain, S. (29 August, 2022). California Legislature passes bill to protect fast-food-workers. https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-08-29/california-senate-pass-bill-fast-food-workers

  4. Gurley, L. (25 August 2022). Starbucks illegally withheld raises from union workers, labor board says. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/08/24/starbucks-raises-nlrb-complaint/

  5. Kiger, J. (25 August 2022). Food service workers picket in front of Mayo Clinic. https://www.postbulletin.com/business/food-service-workers-picket-in-front-of-mayo-clinic

  6. Madland, D. and Walker, M. (March 2020). What Is Sectoral Bargaining? https://www.americanprogressaction.org/article/what-is-sectoral-bargaining/

  7. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, & Stewart P.C. (1 September 2022). California Bill Aimed at Providing Increased Rights to Fast-food Workers Sent to Governor for Signature. https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/california-bill-aimed-at-providing-3774331/