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Signature Gathering Starts for Measure to Overturn Union-Backed Fast Food Law

San Diego-based Jack in the Box Inc. is famed for 24-hour service at many outlets. But with the pandemic, the fast-food chain's store at Lake Murray Boulevard and Dallas Drive in La Mesa isn't taking chances, reminding drivers that the drive-through window is open.
Jack in the Box is a San Diego-based fast food company that would be effected by the new law. Photo by Ken Stone

The ink on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature on Assembly Bill 257 regulating California’s fast food industry is barely dry, but a referendum to overturn the law has already been cleared for signature gathering.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Monday that the new law will be on hold pending the outcome of the referendum effort.

Opponents of the law will need to gather signatures from 623,212 registered voters by Dec. 5 in order for the measure to become eligible for the ballot at the first statewide election after Nov. 8. Voters would then decide the fate of AB 257, as they did in 2020 to end Assembly Bill 5’s union-sought regulation of independent Uber and Lyft drivers.

The bill signed by Newsom on Sept. 5 created a union-dominated fast food council with authority to set wages and working conditions across the industry. The council is empowered to enact a minimum wage of up to $22 in 2023.

Unions have long sought a bargaining foothold in the low-wage industry that employs more than half a million non-union workers statewide.

Fast food chains like McDonald’s urged Newsom to veto the bill, saying their industry was being unfairly targeted and warning that the new regulations would force restaurants to increase prices at a time of record inflation.

Two trade groups, the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association, co-chair the coalition backing the referendum.

“It is only right for California’s voters to have a voice before harboring the burden of a bill that has widely been heralded as a massive step in the wrong direction,” the coalition said in a statement.

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