California Dreaming

California Legislation Workers

            Marble Falls      One oft-repeated line from the old Beach Boys song was “I wish they could all be California.”  Some group ought to do a cover of that song with the line, “I wish we all could be Californians.”  Of course, most of us couldn’t afford it, but maybe if we could substitute the California legislature for the United States Congress, “what a wonderful world,” as Louis Armstrong sang, it might be, at least for workers.

Maybe especially fast food workers, as a bill has gone for signature creating something similar to sectoral bargaining for such workers who have faced huge barriers to not only unionization but living wages, fair payment for hours worked, and basic health and safety compliance.  The California legislature passed something called the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act or FAST Recovery Act for short.

As Ken Jacobs, director of the UC Berkely Labor Center describes the provisions of the Act,

It will create a Fast Food Sector Council made up of worker, employer, and government representatives charged with establishing sector-wide standards related to wages, health and safety, and training….The collection and validation of 10,000 signatures of workers in the industry will be required for the Council to be established. The ten-member council is to be made up of two representatives each of fast-food workers, fast-food worker advocates, franchisors, and franchisees, in addition to two representatives of the Governor’s administration. The Council functions as a “social bargaining” table — involving workers, business, and the public … over wages and working conditions in the fast-food industry. It is charged with establishing sector-wide minimum labor standards in the industry to supply “the necessary cost of proper living to … fast food restaurant workers” and to effect “interagency coordination and prompt agency responses” regarding issues affecting the health, safety, and welfare of fast-food workers.  Every six months, the Council must hold meetings that will provide a forum for fast-food workers to address issues in the industry. Cities and counties with a population over 200,000 may establish their own similarly-constituted Local Fast Food Sector Councils that will hold hearings and make recommendations to the State Council….As with collective bargaining, the adequacy of the standards will be reviewed every three years.

Sure, it’s not a panacea, but it will make a difference, and maybe once it’s up and running it can cross the Sierras and head east where more can benefit than the 550,000 estimated fast food workers in Cali.

On pay, the legislature moved a bill forward to assure transparency.  As reported in the Los Angeles Times,

California lawmakers …passed legislation requiring all employers based or hiring in the state to post salary ranges on all job listings. The law will also require California-based companies with more than 100 employees to show their median gender and racial pay gaps — a first for a U.S. state.

Hey, hey, hey, way to go!

On family leave, where California was the first state in the nation to provide paid family leave, the legislature passed a bill directed at lower-waged workers who were not benefiting from the earlier policy, because the payments were too low to allow them to not work, even if their family desperately needed them at home.  The bill passed by the legislature in the next three years would allow low-wage workers to receive 90% of their pay.

Who knows what the governor will do with these inspiring worker-oriented initiatives?  Win or lose, sign or veto, hats off to the California legislature for breaking new ground and paving the way, just maybe, for other states and the country to at least try and do the right thing for workers.  Remember, we have a Congress that can’t even get it together to pass an increase to the federal minimum wage after what is now thirteen years since the last bump.  I’d trade the whole pack of Congresspeople for the California legislature, sight unseen, and not ask for any draft picks later.