Assembly Bill 257, the landmark worker rights bill that was signed into law last November, will now be decided on by voters in 2024.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced the total number of signatures needed to block the implementation of AB 257 was reached. It will now be a referendum initiative on the November 2024 General Election ballot.

What You Need To Know

  • AB 257 would create a 10-person Fast Food Council 

  • The legislation was designed to raise wages and working conditions for fast food employees

  • The Save Local Restaurants coalition argues the legislation will increase food prices and create more government bureaucracy for local restaurant owners

  • Assembly member Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, author of AB 257, says legislation is in the works to reform the referendum process in California

The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act is designed to support fast-food workers. It establishes a 10-member Fast Food Council in the Department of Industrial Relations. The council would be made up of workers, franchise owners and government officials.

The council would be tasked with establishing industry-wide standards on wages, working hours, and issues related to the health and welfare of workers.

The bill was heavily criticized by many fast food corporations and restaurant groups during the legislative process.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the FAST Recovery Act into law in November. The law was slated to go into effect on Jan. 1. However, a coalition of restaurant owners and corporations formed a coalition called Save Local Restaurants, which led the signature-gathering campaign.

Assembly member Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, author of AB 257, joined “Inside the Issues” host Alex Cohen to discuss the bill and what he thinks needs to change with the voter referendum process.

The Assembly member says the FAST Recovery Act was designed to protect fast food workers — who are often women of color — from unsafe work environments.

“We needed to make sure that there was an opportunity for [the workers] to have a seat at the table, to make sure that they could be a part, along with other stakeholders in the industry, to be able to set standards that would govern the equity and fairness of their workplace,” Holden said.

The Save Local Restaurants coalition argues the new legislation would drastically increase food prices and create more government bureaucracy. 

“It’s very disingenuous and very harmful to have the rhetoric put out there that somehow that this is going to hurt the public in some way,” Holden said. “This is to protect those workers who, right now, don’t have the kind of voice that they’re entitled to.”

Large fast food corporations and restaurant groups have spent a considerable amount of money campaigning against the FAST Recovery Act.

“It is estimated that [the restaurant groups] are going to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to kill this bill,” Holden said. “And when you think about the people who it’s designed to benefit, if they had just spent those dollars to increase safety opportunities within these workplaces, give these individuals the raises that they need, they probably would not have come even near the money they are spending to try and defeat this bill.”

The referendum process was passed by voters in California in 1911. Former California Gov. Hiram Johnson is credited for leading the implementation campaign.

Signatures for a referendum must be from registered voters and equal to 5% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Holden criticized the voter referendum process, which was put in place to help voters fight against corporate interest, as now being used as a tool for big corporations to delay legislation.

“I do believe it is a misuse of the system — the referendum system — and I know that there’s legislation that’s being proposed this session that’s looking to make some changes to see that these types of approaches will not be so easily utilized to undermine the will of the people going forward,” Holden said.

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