On a recent workday, Angelica Hernandez labored in a hot McDonald’s kitchen in Monterey Park east of Los Angeles.
Photo Insert: About 15% of fast-food workers live in poverty, twice the rate of the overall workforce.
“The AC has not been working,” she said through an interpreter. “I leave work with a headache or feeling nauseated.”
Hernandez worked shifts for no more than $18.19 an hour for the last 20 years and got sexually harassed by a manager and cheated out of pay by her boss, Jessica Goodheart reported for Capital & Main.
She complained publicly last year while campaigning for a worker protection bill, hoping her story would help the law pass. It did: On Labor Day 2022, the governor signed the FAST Recovery Act (Assembly Bill 257), promising new protections and better pay for workers.
But the victory was short-lived. A coalition of restaurants and industry trade groups gathered enough signatures to challenge the law on the November 2024 ballot, blocking its implementation.
About 15% of fast-food workers live in poverty, twice the rate of the overall workforce.
Now, workers and unions may have found a way around deep-pocketed anti-worker ballot initiatives. A revived California commission, dormant for two decades, should provide workers like Hernandez some muscle to combat subpar working conditions in low-wage industries.
The Industrial Welfare Commission, established in 1913 to regulate workplaces that employed women and children, has powers that rattle corporate interests, including issuing wage increases.
Lawmakers want the commission not to stray from its purpose and become a management ally.
The bill, AB 102, provided $3 million in funding for the commission and required that it issue orders that strengthen, as opposed to weaken, labor protections. That has not sat well with its opponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association.
Workplace standard-setting boards, like those in New York, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Seattle, empower workers by allowing them to negotiate directly with employers.
Such boards support employees facing tough union-busting tactics and those employed by subcontractors or franchisees, and thus removed from corporate headquarters where the terms of their jobs— are dictated.
Such boards could have significant effects across California and the country, enabling a form of industrywide bargaining, which is common in Europe and Australia.