Fast food employees demand corporations halt efforts to overturn labor law

A crowd gathered at a Starbucks on Figueroa Street in a statewide strike against the overturning of AB 257, which gives rights to fast food employees.

Fast-food workers are protesting against a referendum opposing law AB 257 outside of a Starbucks in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday afternoon, champions of AB 257 — such as Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago — spoke to a loud crowd of fast food workers and supporters. This comes after the news that Starbucks, McDonald’s and other fast food chains are seeking to pass a referendum that would overturn AB 257, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Labor Day.

AB 257, also known as the “Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act,” gives more than half of a million low-wage fast food workers the power to raise the industry-wide minimum wage to up to $22 per hour. Moreover, the bill creates a statewide fast food council to set standards across the industry that improve working conditions that will work with individual franchises to ensure safety, health and compliance within stores.

California’s fast food workers are more than twice as likely to live in poverty compared to other workers in the state. Additionally, nearly 80% of California’s fast food workers are people of color and about two-thirds are women.

The Fast Food Industry Coalition deems AB 257 to be a threat to restaurant business. The group hopes to block the law until it can be presented before California voters. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The coalition is in the process of collecting enough signatures by the December 4 deadline to get the referendum on the November 2024 ballot.”

At noon Tuesday in front of a Starbucks on North Figueroa Street, workers made it clear that they were not on board with these initiatives.

David Green, a social worker at Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, addressed workers at the protest. He made it clear that fast food workers deserve dignity and respect.

“Corporate greed got in the way. Starbucks got in the way. McDonald’s got in the way. Carl’s Junior got in the way. Guess why? Because they want you to live in poverty. But it’s worse than that, folks,” Green said. “They want to take away your voice.”

Green said that corporations prioritize their bank accounts rather than helping their employees.

“The goal is that all these workers, whether they’re a gig worker or a fast food worker, [earn] a living wage, be able to raise your family with dignity, respect, child care, health care,” Green said. “A lot of these workers are one paycheck away from poverty. We want to lift them up.”

Like many assembled at the event, Anneisha Williams, a Jack in the Box worker and in-home care provider, has concerns about the bill being overturned.

“Why be unfair to people that are busting their butts to make your corporation, your foundation better?” she asked.

“We deserve better as well. You know, some of us have health conditions. Some of us have several children. Some of us are dealing with eviction. Rent has gone up.” Williams said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to continue to stand thick in numbers, because we deserve better and we’re trying to show you that we deserve better.”

In order to appear on the November 2024 ballot in California, referendum supporters such as the fast-food corporations need 623,000 voter signatures by December 4.