02 Apr 2024, 11:22

I'm lovin' it: California fast food workers hail pay hike

LOS ANGELES, April 2, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Fast food workers in California on
Monday hailed a pay raise that takes their minimum wage to $20 an hour, even
as firms warned of likely price increases in an already expensive state.

Staff flipping burgers or filling burritos at large chain restaurants will
now be guaranteed one of the highest base rates in the country.

"It'll help me breathe a little easier in terms of paying my rent and even
buying groceries," said Angelica Hernandez, who works at a McDonald's in Los

"In all of my 19 years working in this industry... maybe 25 cents would be
the max (raise) that we would get a year if we were 'good workers,' so this
is a huge raise."

Pizza Hut worker Julieta Garcia from Guatemala told AFP that with the cost of
living so high in California, the big rise in the minimum wage -- up from $16
an hour -- was extremely important.

"We go to the supermarket with $100 and we don't have enough," she said. "Our
rents as well are increasing every year."

More than half a million people in California are employed in the fast food
sector, at globally familiar chains like Burger King and Taco Bell, but also
at smaller homegrown brands like In-N-Out Burger.

Tia Koonse of the University of California, Los Angeles Labor Center said the
vast majority of workers in the industry are women and people of color, with
a sector-wide median annual wage of $25,800 -- way below the state average of

"There's a common misconception that fast food workers are teenagers working
for pocket change or the latest iPad or whatever," she told reporters.

"But the truth is that well over half are over 25... and a quarter are
actually the main earners in their home."

The California legislation, signed into law last year by Democratic Governor
Gavin Newsom, applies only to establishments with little or no table service
and that have at least 60 sites nationwide.

Some chains have said they will need to increase prices and warn the wage
hikes could ultimately cost jobs.

"Everyone is going to have to pay more," said Jack Hartung, chief financial
officer of Chipotle Mexican Grill, according to the Wall Street Journal.

- 'Layoffs' -

Chipotle, which is headquartered in California, has already raised its prices
four times in the last two years, and says it is considering further
increases of up to nine percent to cover wage costs.

Alexander Johnson -- who operates a number of franchises of Cinnabon bakeries
and Auntie Anne's, a pretzel chain, in the San Francisco Bay area -- told
ABC7 that he was considering layoffs and higher prices to cover the $470,000
increase in costs.

"It means that we have to raise prices, which we don't want to do," he said.

Economists are divided on the effects of the minimum wage, which is set at
$7.25 federally, though varies widely by state.

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found raising the federal minimum
to $17 an hour could help 18 million people over the next five years, but
could cost 700,000 jobs.

UCLA's Koonse argued that layoffs in California were both unlikely and

"California has added 142,000 jobs to the fast food industry since minimum
wage started going up in 2015," she said.

Outlets in some of the state's more expensive cities are already paying staff
upwards of $20 an hour, either because of local rules or market forces, she
said, adding the industry's big names have experienced record profits since
2018, further fueled by the pandemic.

"Surely instead of layoffs, they can share some of those profits with the
poorest workers in California."

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