Worker-backed bill would devastate California’s restaurant industry – Capitol Weekly | weekly capitol

On June 3, the so-called “FAST Recovery Act” failed to gain enough votes to advance to the California Legislature. Even though it was proposed by the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and was a priority for the interests of workers, lawmakers recognized the damage that would have been caused by this bill.

The legislation, which is almost certain to return next session, would upend California’s restaurant industry and the way California deals with fundamental workplace issues.

Over the past three decades, California has methodically built one of the most rigorous worker protection and workplace safety structures in the country, if not the world. Worker protection and safety laws fill thousands of codes and pages in regulatory records, with each addition subject to extensive debate, public hearings, and input from industry experts and officials. careers of state agencies responsible for ensuring workplace standards and protections.

In four steps, the bill, AB 257 by Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), changes that certainty, spelling disaster for restaurants, small businesses and their employees.

First, AB 257, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, sets aside existing labor laws, in favor of a new set of rules to be crafted and enforced by 11 unelected political appointees. AB 257 envisions a new, independent regulatory “board” with unprecedented power to write and enact workplace rules, without meaningful oversight from lawmakers or the governor.

This council will have the power to “issue, modify or repeal any other rules and regulations”. In the event that this board issues a rule that conflicts with one issued by a state agency, the state agency’s rule “shall not have force and effect.”

Second, AB 257 creates another layer of unelected local councils. The bill would authorize a county and city with a population of more than 200,000 to establish a local fast food industry board to provide recommendations to the state fast food board. This will create so many potential conflicts and pitfalls that it is nearly impossible to identify them.

Third, AB 257 creates a model for applying an unelected board to other California businesses. All business owners, big and small, restaurateurs or not, should be worried about this bill, because you’re next. Proponents say this will only apply to “fast food” restaurants. In reality, it captures a much wider swath of the restaurant industry. And while this bill initially targets the restaurant industry, the precedent set in AB 257 will quickly spread to other sectors of the California economy.

Fourth, AB 257 changes a franchise model that has helped countless entrepreneurs. The bill forces franchisors to disenfranchise franchisees and reduce franchisees from independent business owners to middle managers of the company, seriously restricting new entrepreneurs who want to be in business for themselves but not by themselves and benefit from a brand already known to the public. . It should be noted that 60% of California restaurants are owned by people of color. Restaurant franchises are also well known for providing opportunities for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and new immigrant business owners.

Although the legislation may be reintroduced in January, the restaurant industry is well placed and justified to put up a vigorous fight.

Restaurants have endured an extended period of unique challenges presented by the pandemic. Even at the worst of the COVID era, California restaurants have complied with regulations and demonstrated how an industry can open and maintain operations safely. California restaurants through COVID have shown they have less outbreaks and cases than many other major sectors, including retail and manufacturing.

Now that the restaurant industry is trying to emerge from the greatest crisis in the history of our industry, state policymakers should continue to help small businesses by clearing the debris of the long road to recovery, not by adding to it.

Editor’s note: Jot Condie is president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

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Cecil N. Messick