Annenberg Radio News

Victory for California fast-food employees

Minimum wage is slated to raise following an agreement

Cash being fanned out from a wallet.

Fast-food workers across California have a new reason to celebrate!

Last weekend, Fast-food companies agreed to remove a referendum from California’s November 2024 ballot that aimed to reverse an unprecedented worker protection law. This agreement will avoid an expensive political battle with labor unions involving pay for their employees.

This is a victory for workers across the state, with minimum wage increasing to 20 dollars an hour for fast-food employees starting in April. It will provide workers with higher pay and a more stable future in an often difficult and labor-intensive environment.

Former Taco-Bell employee and current USC student Isabel Jasper was making $15.50 an hour. Based on her experience there, a higher wage would have compensated for the stress.

Isabel Jasper: It was not super pleasant. It was just a very tight space. I think that location in particular was not managed that well. It was a little understaffed and so there was just a lot of there was a lot of yelling

According to the math, a salary of $15.50 an hour while working a 40-hour a week job is not a livable wage in California. In a state where it costs 4,423 dollars a month to live according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, workers making 15.50 an hour would only bring in 2,480 a month.

Isabel Jasper: A lot of the people I talked to there had multiple jobs and would go from Taco Bell to their other job. And I don’t know, I think even working like night shifts and stuff and few I think one or two of them were tired of talked about having a family and were kind of a lot of them were older.

However, not all California fast-food chains have this drastic of an issue. Current In-N-Out employee and USC student Remy Vigil makes the company-specific minimum wage of 19 dollars an hour. Based on her experience, the pay was fair.

Remy Vigil: I think it’s definitely you get paid for the amount of work you put into each shift, and I think it’s a really cool place and it’s a lot seems like a lot different in terms of other fast food places like their conditions and what they’re actually being paid for.

Additionally, IN-N-OUT operates on a level system.

Remy Vigil: You can’t really complain just because of the pay and you are able to get raises from working there and moving up a level. So maybe other companies or fast food chains can adopt that like level system of where it it’s easier to get a raise even if they are starting pay like a little bit lower than in and out.

Time will tell how this wage increase will affect both fast-food company policies around employee wage, and the employees themselves at large.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Mia Russman.