Labor group demands California’s $20 minimum wage for fast food workers extend to all sectors

The law has stoked a flurry of warnings from restaurant owners and industry insiders that the consumers will bear the cost of the minimum wage increase

A fair wage advocacy group is demanding that California’s new $20 minimum wage law for fast food workers be extended to all sectors to help working-class people who are struggling with the state's high cost of living. 

FOX Business spoke with Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage to discuss what she described as the skyrocketing levels of home insecurity and food insecurity post-pandemic. 

Fast food workers winning a $20 minimum wage, she said, "was just the beginning." 

Jayaraman pointed to the exorbitantly high cost of living in the Golden State where, in some counties, an individual would need a $40 an hour salary to live comfortably. 


Saru Jayaraman speaking at an event
President of One Fair Wage Saru Jayaraman speaks during a Learn About Worker Experiences event at the Skal restaurant in Brooklynon April 11, 2022, in New York City. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for One Fair Wage / Getty Images)

"People are leaving the state or are not having children, not having families. These are all the very basics we should be thinking about for humans living in California and needing to survive," Jayaraman told FOX Business. "I mean the level of crisis that people have been enduring since the pandemic is severe." 

California Gov. Newsom signed AB 1228 in September and the law went into effect earlier this month. The new law applies to workers at restaurants that have at least 60 locations nationwide. 

Ahead of the law coming into effect, restaurant owners and other industry insiders warned that the law would be detrimental to small businesses and consumers. 

One Los Angeles-based restaurant owner complained to FOX Business that there were going to be "massive layoffs" and "massive job losses." 


Another former assistant manager at Fosters Freeze in Lemoore, California described the new law as "a shock." 

Jayaraman has dismissed these concerns, arguing that such dire predictions have not been born out in past minimum wage increases. \

"That is the argument they always make. Every single time the minimum wage goes up, they always say it’s going to kill business, jobs will be lost, and we’ve never seen it happen. Not in California, not in any other state. It has never happened," said Jayaraman, who is also the Director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

She argued that raising the minimum wage will put more money into workers’ pockets who in turn spend their extra earnings, stimulating the economy and growing industries. 
Saru Jayaraman wearing a red dress
Saru Jayaraman speaks at the One Fair Wage Fundraiser at Gracias Madre on September 21, 2023, in West Hollywood, California. (Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images / Getty Images)

That the minimum wage would pass prices onto consumers, she argued that consumers have already been experiencing inflation, coupled with stagnant wages. 

"Frankly, inflation has already happened, and many prices have already gone up. Grocery store prices have already gone up. And so, it’s not a matter of we can’t raise wages anymore because prices might go up," she said. "Prices have already gone up. If we don’t keep wages in step with the rising cost of living, either workers will leave the state or these other horrible things happen." 

Jayaraman said small businesses have been "leading the way" when it comes to offering more money for workers. 

"They have joined forces with us to say ‘we really need a policy that’s going to create a level playing field so that we’re not sticking our necks out," Jayaraman said. "You need policy to signal to these workers it’s worth working in restaurants again."

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