A week ago, our union-dominated legislature passed Assembly Bill 257, known as the FAST Act and Governor Newsom signed it into law with a grand flourish on Labor Day. He confidently decided to further hurt consumers in California by signing this bill into law just before an election.
As a former quick-serve food franchisee for more than 30 years, I have a perspective on this bill's effect on my old customers and employees, and it will not be pretty.
First, a historical perspective. I was born and raised in California, and from my earliest days, I worked around food stands at the L.A. County Fair and special events for a family friend who eventually became my father-in-law.
My first “official” recorded job with a social security number was at a McDonald’s unit in Ontario. My starting wage was $1.25 per hour, but I got a bump when I volunteered to come in at 6 a.m. to wash down the lot, which was great because it allowed me to attend earlier morning football study sessions.
Yes, gasoline was a nasty 29.9 cents a gallon, so I realize the cost of living was much different than it is today. But the major shift between today and the fast- food typical employee over the last 40 years has been about their goals. A fast-food job was a starter job. It was a starter job when I got it, and it was a starter job when I first started hiring teenagers for our first pizza store 35 years ago. To hire shift leaders, we could get Moms who wanted a few days a week and folks from the nearby airbase. Store Manager candidates were poached from other restaurant chains.
It was a chore to get first-timers to understand they had to work when they were on the clock and that talking to friends on the phone or handing out free food was stealing from their employer. It was never a problem to get quality kids who wanted to work. We usually had them for two years, maybe three, before they moved on to college, the military, or a trade.
In their infinite wisdom and to “protect” all these poor youngsters, the state gradually changed enough health and safety laws to make it impossible to have a person under 18 in any store where an oven, mixer, or sharp instruments were used. That left us with an older workforce only suited for entry-level jobs. We are often promoted from within to develop managers. Even then, no one saw a fast-food job as a career. It was a stepping-stone or temporary until something better came along.
That has changed as California has moved to a service industry-based economy. The influx of lower economic communities has benefitted fast-food purveyors because we featured inexpensive meals supplied quickly and at a location near you.
In the news:
Now, unions are hungry for recruits in an America moving away from blue-collar jobs.
Are there abused employees? I am sure there are, but franchise operations are regularly monitored and regulated by their franchisor and many state agencies. Lawyers prey upon franchisees using the California Private Attorney General’s Act as a bludgeon to enforce and monetize even the most minor labor law infraction. Franchise operations are not the problem, just an easy and visible target for AB 257.
What will this new law mean when enacted? Independent analysis has revealed this bill will raise costs by 20% for consumers. Consumers are already the most vulnerable to the history-making inflation rates for food, housing, and energy in this state.
As a former business owner, I can also confidently predict this bill will cost jobs to the people it claims to care about. The bill calls for a $22 per hour minimum wage in 2023. This will cause a lightning bolt shift to more machines and fewer people. Many chains already have automated burgers, pizza, and finished meal-making equipment that can replace back-of-the-store workers. Add enhanced digital ordering and touchless pick-up service, and you have fewer jobs.
I would also wager that franchisors and franchisees alike will resist opening new units in California unless they are fully mechanized and require fewer employees.
Business will always react to profit-killing legislation to protect their bottom line. Businesses are not charitable concerns. No profit equals no business. Businesses that leave or fail mean no sales taxes for our cash-hungry legislature to give away.
The head of the California Labor Federation and former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales cheered that “This is a huge victory.” It is if you look forward to many recruits who may not understand the concept of union dues or can read the contracts they will vote on.
Newsom decided union campaign contributions and support for his presidential ambitions were more important than inflation-stressed, low-income voters. At some point, common sense must kick in.
When does the average California resident stop and say, “Wait a minute, these people who say they are helping me want me to pay $10 for a Big Mac. They will force us to buy electric cars while warning of rolling blackouts and encouraging people to “Be the solution” by cutting back power usage during our record-setting heat wave."
When does the pandering to campaign contributors at the expense of the people you are elected to serve to reach a limit? Now that AB 257 has become law, someone better beef up the Employment Development Department because there will soon be a lot of former fast-food employees looking for work or unemployment compensation.
Pat Orr writes regularly for the Victorville Daily Press. Email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Opinion: California's new fast food worker protections will cost jobs