California Fast Food and Health Care Workers Poised to Win Major Salary Increases

 Nearly 1 million California workers are poised to win major salary increases after labor unions flexed their collective muscle in the state’s Democratic-led Legislature on Monday following a summer of high-profile strikes in the entertainment and hospitality industries.

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Most of the state’s 500,000 fast food workers would be paid at least $20 per hour next year under a new bill aimed at ending a standoff between the industry and labor unions over wages and working conditions. About 455,000 health care workers — not doctors and nurses, but the people who do everything else at hospitals, dialysis clinics and other facilities — will see their salaries rise to at least $25 per hour over the next 10 years in a separate bill.

Both proposals must first pass the state Legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But the proposals have the blessing of both labor unions and industry groups, clearing the path for passage this week before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

An added bonus for voters: The November 2024 ballot will be a little less crowded. The fast food industry has agreed to withdraw its referendum on a fast food law that Newsom signed last year.

The bills, both introduced Monday, are just some of the impressive run of results for labor unions in the state Legislature this year. Also on Monday, the state Assembly voted to advance a proposal to give striking workers unemployment benefits — a policy change that could eventually benefit Hollywood actors and writers and Los Angeles-area hotel workers who have been on strike for much of this year.

“I think fast food cooks and cashiers have fundamentally changed the politics of wages in this country and have reshaped what working people believe is possible when they join together and take on corporate power and systemic racism,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union.

California’s minimum wage is already among the highest in the country at $15.50 per hour. The fast food bill would increase that minimum wage to $20 per hour for workers at restaurants in California that have at least 60 locations nationwide — with an exception for restaurants that make and sell their own bread, like Panera Bread.

The bill will affect about 500,000 fast food workers in California, according to the Service Employees International Union, which has been working to unionize fast food workers in the state. They include Ingrid Vilorio, who works at a Jack In The Box in the San Francisco Bay Area. She said the raise will help her family, who until recently was sharing a house with two other families to afford rent.

“A lot of us (in the fast-food industry) have to have two jobs to make ends meet. This will give us some breathing space,” said Vilorio, who also works as a nanny.

The $20 hourly wage would be a starting point. The nine-member Fast Food Council, which would include representatives from the restaurant industry and labor, would have the power to increase that minimum wage each year by up to 3.5% or the change in the U.S. consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, whichever is lower.

The wage increase for health care workers is more complicated. Their salaries will rise gradually over the next decade, depending on where they work. Workers for large health care facilities and dialysis clinics will see their pay jump to at least $23 per hour next year, increasing to $25 per hour by 2026. Workers at rural hospitals with lots of Medicaid patients would have their salaries increase to at least $18 per hour next year, with 3.5% increases each year until it reaches $25 per hour in 2033.

Workers at community clinics will see their salaries rise to at least $21 per hour in 2024 before peaking at $25 per hour in 2027. Salaries at all other covered health care facilities will increase to at least $21 per hour next year before reaching $25 per hour by 2028.

“Everyone in the healthcare sector understands that we have a workforce crisis, and that wages are the essential prerequisite for any solution,” said Tia Orr, executive director of the Service Employees International Union-California. “With this increase, more workers will join and stay in the healthcare workforce, and as a result Californians will be safer and better cared for.”

It’s unusual, but not unprecedented, for states to have minimum wages for specific industries. Minnesota lawmakers created a council to set wages for nursing home workers. In 2021, Colorado announced a $15 minimum wage for direct care workers in home and community-based services.

In California, most fast food workers are over 18 and the main providers for their family, according to Enrique Lopezlira, director of the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center’s Low Wage Work Program. Just over 75% of health care workers in California are women, and 76% are workers of color, according to a study published earlier this year by the UC Berkely Labor Center.

Hospitals support the bill in part because it “ensures that wages for health care workers are set by the state, creating greater equity for all of California’s health care workforce,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

The fast food industry benefits by stopping two proposals they say would have made it much harder for restaurants to operate in California. Labor unions agreed to withdraw a bill that would have held big fast food corporations like McDonald’s liable for the misdeeds of their independent franchise operators in the state.

And Democrats in the state Legislature agreed to strip funding for the Industrial Welfare Commission, an agency that has the power to set wage and workplace standards for multiple industries.

Click here to read the full article in AP News


  1. How many folks really think they get good service at the DMV? None is my bet. This same union, SEIU represent the city, state and county workers all over California.

    Soon, the unions will declare these fast foodies as essential workers and become government employees. Fast food outlets in every office and building with more breaks to support the extra baggage.

    You might be able to get a burger or taco while you wait in the long lines at your local DMV. I can see the communication across the counters of fast-food spewing matches instead of yelling, test your driving skills parallel parking will wolfing down four tacos. Extra points for the awful sauce!

    Your $5 meal deal is going to be thrown under the buses around town. It”l be a $20, No Deal Meal for me!

  2. $20 an hour working at a Burger King. The idiots running Kommiefornia are only going to succeed in hastening the demise of the state. Oh so glad we got out when we did.

  3. No one is required to work in the fast food industry to support a family. If $15.50 is not sufficient, get a better paying job. Pretty soon there will be no workers in fast food – replaced by robots who don’t get paid.

  4. We seem to forget that many of these Fast Food places are franchises owned not by the corporation but by a private person.

    These owners will employ less staff and cut hours to make a profit. It will not be the corporation that takes the hit.

    So when your local Fast food place closes, you know why.

    • RT,

      Yes, prices will; go up. Fast-food places will also try to cut staff to save $$$.

      Yes, a number of fast-food locations will close while those who worked there will be without that income.

  5. Big Mac combo and 3 Happy Meals? That’ll be 80 bucks ma’am.

  6. The disease that starts in California spreads across the Nation like wildfire ans will cripple the economy of those on fixed as well as lower income even more that the past almost three years have.

  7. They are cheering now. Let’s see once it takes affect?? A whole lot of these people are going to lose their job!! Robots are coming. Or there are going to be a bunch of fast food places closing down.

  8. As per usual, the unions work against themselves, and their membership. Whether it is the auto unions who are dead set on moving even more of their jobs to Mexico, or the longshoremen in California, or the fast food workers, they kill their own jobs.

    People will rebel against an $19 to $20 burger and fries. It isn’t affordable, nor sustainable. The franchisees will end up out of business (union members, that kills your jobs, in case you don’t understand the concept), or will increase the use of kiosks and robots. Union members, that , kills your jobs. My prediction is that in less than two years there will be fewer employees per $1000 of sales in the industry than there are now. Good luck with that.

    Of course, there may be a lot of illegals working off the books at $7.50 an hour taking your jobs.

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