Fast-food workers push for bill to govern wages, working conditions | News

Susan S. Johnson

McDonald's Fillmore

A McDonald’s location in the Fillmore District. Fast food workers across the state on Thursday protested in support of Assembly Bill 257, which would create an oversight committee to regulate fast-food corporations and their operations.

Teresa Molina says she receives minimal pay and reduced hours at her McDonald’s location in The City and that management keeps asking her to perform faster and faster.

“They treat us like robots,” she said through a translator.

Molina alleges that if she sought out a place to report the mistreatment like the California Department of Fair Employment she would face further cuts to her schedule or even being let go entirely. She has been told this by management, she said. 

That’s why she and at least two other employees traveled to Oakland Thursday to demonstrate in support of Assembly Bill 257.

They hoped to catch the attention of senators who have yet to vote on the bill and the governor, whose signature could make all the difference in their day to day lives. 

AB257, introduced by four assembly members including local representative Evan Low, would establish a Fast Food Sector Council within the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. Also known as the FAST Recovery Act, AB257 would require 11 officials to create streamlined, minimum standards for wages, working hours and other conditions. 

“The bill would define the characteristics of a fast food restaurant, including that the establishment be part of a set of fast food restaurants consisting of 30 or more establishments nationally that share a common brand, or that are characterized by standardized options for decor, marketing, packaging, products, and services,” the legislative counsel’s digest states.

With such a council, Molina believes she would find protections — even without formal union representation.

“Right now, if we go on strike, they threaten to fire us. We need a place to go where we feel safe,” she said.

McDonald’s did not respond to requests for comment.

Molina is exactly the kind of Californian the bill is intended to serve, according to  its author, Assemblyman Chris Holden. There are approximately 557,000 residents like her, people who keep the fast food industry running.

“Employees should not have to choose between safe working conditions and their livelihood,” he said in a statement. “This bill prioritizes collaboration and equity among stakeholders throughout the fast food sector, and I look forward to working with… any stakeholder who is interested in contributing an inclusive solution to move this bill through the Legislature.”

The Assembly voted 41-19 to back the bill at the end of January. A Senate hearing has not yet been publicized.

Holden said in a statement that if AB257 is passed it would make the Golden State a top dog in “the fight for systemic change within the fast-food sector.”

SEIU 1021 has been connecting workers like Molina to resources and advocating for a workplace that offers employees a better quality of life. The union joined protesting workers in Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles. The actions followed fast food workers and their supporters who rallied on the steps of the California State Capitol building on various occasions. In a statement earlier this year, SEIU said the FAST Recovery Act would “give workers a seat at the table” in the fight for accountability from these corporations.

“We have seen the support, overall, from unions — especially with SEIU’s ‘Fight for 15’ campaign,” Molina said, adding that when there have been workplace issues SEIU has provided literature to workers so they can remind their bosses of their legal duties.

After six years in the food industry, Molina appreciates SEIU support, but first and foremost wants not just her employer but the public to realize that “we are human beings, we are workers, and we need this to pass now more than ever.” 

An opposition campaign has sprung up against the bill, claiming that it will raise prices and further overload families hardest hit by inflation. 

The “Stop AB 257” coalition is largely composed of small business owners, restaurateurs and franchisees in addition to employees and consumers, according to its website. A laundry list of chambers of commerce across the state agree that the bill has the ability to “kill local jobs”; none of these entities are San Francisco-based.

[email protected], @_melissahartman

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