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Restaurant Groups Send Petition with Over One Million Signatures Opposing Fast Act in California

The political coalition Save Local Restaurants, which is backed by some of the nation’s largest franchise restaurant brands, says it has collected enough signatures to implement a statewide referendum on California’s controversial bill.

The International Franchise Association (IFA) announced yesterday the submission of over one million petition signatures from California voters in opposition to AB 257, or the FAST Act. Once those signatures are validated by California’s secretary of state, the law, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Sept. 5., will be put on hold until after the 2024 general election.

The AB 257 bill’s goal is to give California fast-food workers and unions more influence over wage rates and workplace standards by establishing a council composed of QSR employees, franchisees and corporate brands, as well as government workplace regulators. The 11-person committee would have the authority to draft state labor standards for fast-food restaurants, including decisions around workers’ pay, schedules and safety regulations every six months. 

Many small business owners have expressed concern because of a fear that this bill could result in rising menu prices if it becomes law. According to an analysis by UC Riverside, prices at quick-service restaurants will increase up to 20% with the passage of AB 257, the IFA says. Franchisors in California are also concerned about how the AB-257 bill would result in them being considered joint employers, meaning they would share accountability for individual franchisees’ violation of labor standards. 

“The FAST Act would have an enormous impact on Californians, and clearly voters want a say in whether it should stand,” said the Save Local Restaurants Coalition in a statement. “The measure would establish an unelected council to control labor policy in the counter-service restaurant industry, cause food prices to increase by as much as 20% during a period of decades-high inflation, and harm thousands of small family-, minority-, and women-owned businesses across the state. Given less than one-third of Californians support AB 257, it is no surprise that over one million Californians have voiced their concerns with the legislation. The Save Local Restaurants Coalition is committed to helping ensure this bad law will not go into effect and voters have their voices heard.”

Major restaurant franchises, including McDonald’sChick-fil-A and Yum Brands, have also raised millions of dollars in efforts to curtail the FAST Recovery Act at the ballot box. 

Proponents of the bill, many of which are fast-food workers, argue that the FAST Act would protect them from employer abuse, including wage theft and sexual harassment. Supporters of the FAST Recovery Act, such as the Service Employees International Union California, have already expressed opposition to the referendum effort, going as far as to claim that the signatures were obtained fraudulently

“With AB 257, we would have a more dignified job,” Angelica Hernandez, an activist with the Fight for $15 campaign and long-time McDonald’s employee, told Vox. “We would finally have a voice and have a place where we can make sure that we are setting better standards. It’s sad because we work in a free country, but we’re not free in our job to speak out.”

The Save Local Restaurants coalition, led by IFA, the National Restaurant Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is made up of small business owners, restaurant owners, franchisees, employees, consumers and community-based organizations.

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