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California Fast Food Law to be repealed

A California law seeking to increase wages and improve working conditions for fast-food workers has been set aside for now, after state officials said an effort by major restaurant and business trade groups to overturn the law had qualified as a measure on next year’s ballot.

The referendum to repeal Assembly Bill 257 was successful in obtaining sufficient valid voter signatures. the office of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber certified Tuesday. The Save Local Restaurants coalition of businesses supported the effort had until December 5th to submit roughly 623,000 California voter petitions. The proponents submitted more than 1 million signatures, of which more than 712,000 were deemed to be valid, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The law, also known by the Fast Recovery Act, was approved last year by California’s Legislature. It will be suspended until the November 2024 ballot of California voters decides whether to repeal it.

AB 257 was created to create a council of workers, corporations and franchisees with a mandate for setting wages and other workplace standards statewide.

If the law had been implemented as planned on Jan. 1, the council would have the authority to increase the minimum hourly wage for fast food workers to $22.

Labor advocates claimed that the legislation could transform collective bargaining and create a precedent in the U.S. to negotiate workplace standards. International Franchise Assn. led the coalition of businesses that opposed the law. The National Restaurant Assn. and International Franchise Assn. claimed that the law would force businesses to pay more for labor and increase food prices.

Fast-food corporations and business trade groups including In-N-Out, Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Starbucks and the National Restaurant Assn. According to the Fair Political Practices Commission (nonpartisan), millions of dollars were donated to the referendum effort.

Save Local Restaurants launched a costly signature-gathering effort to stop the law almost immediately after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 257 to law on Labor Day.

The process of gathering signatures was complicated. Service Employees International Union California, which co-sponsored AB 257 and opposed the referendum campaign, alleged signatures were obtained fraudulently and filed complaints in October with the secretary of state and attorney general’s offices urging action.

Mary Kay Henry, president, Service Employees International Union said that fast-food workers were united in their determination to push AB 257. “No corporation is more powerful than half a million workers joining together to demand a seat at the table,” Henry said in an emailed statement.

International Franchise Assn. Chief Executive Matt Haller said in a statement: “Fortunately, now more than 1 million Californians have spoken out to prevent this misguided policy from driving food prices higher and destroying local businesses and the jobs they create.”

The Save Local Restaurants Coalition did not immediately respond when we asked for comment.

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