SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Some fast food workers will spend the night at the Capitol Tuesday as they urge lawmakers and the governor to pass and sign a bill that they say will allow them to have a voice in their pay and benefits.
The bill faced strong opposition last year and failed, but it’s back and must be voted on in the next two weeks before the session ends on Aug. 31.
“I had somebody spray pepper spray at the window when I worked at Jack in the Box and... that made me sick, and I called the next day and they took my hours,” said Crystal Orozco, a mother of four.
Orozco now works at McDonald's who she said also cut her days from four down to one when she asked for a few days off. Intimidation, retaliation and low pay are the reasons why she is fighting for AB 257.
“We called you heroes, essential workers," Assemblymember Alex Lee said, "And now when the corporation's are turning over hand over fist tons of profit, they treat you as a dispensable workers.”
Assemblymembers who already voted on the bill, like Assemblymember Mia Bonta, urged the senate and the governor to join them in fighting to give the 500,000 fast-food employees in California a seat at the table.
“Hey governor, you want your Big Mac?" Bonta asked in front of the crowd. "Well, AB 257, sign that first.”
The bill would create a statewide council that will help set wages, benefits, and training standards. Members of the 13-person council will be appointed by the governor, speaker of the assembly and senate rules committee. This bill would also require the council to conduct a full review of the adequacy of minimum fast food restaurant health, safety and employment standards at least once every three years.
The bill still faces opposition from the industry.
"I think that they're concerned that it's going to somehow put franchisees out of business, that these will be too onerous on their bottom line," Assemblymember Chris Ward of San Diego said. "We disagree on a lot of that. I think we've really run the numbers, and especially with the cost of living here today, it's important that we're lifting up all California workers."
The California Chamber of Commerce officially listed the bill as one that it opposes, saying the council that the bill would create to negotiate higher pay and wages “would have unprecedented authority to write its own labor and employment laws for fast food restaurant employees, circumventing the California legislature and other regulatory agencies’ position in establishing such laws.”
The bill is only supposed to apply to restaurants that have at least 30 locations, but franchisee owners who maybe only own a few of the thousands of Auntie Anne's for example, say it will impact them at a time when they can’t afford the increased costs.