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Latinas at the front of the fight for fast food workers

A new California bill was signed to establish improved standards for wages, hours and conditions for the fast food industry, which is predominantly Latinos.

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On Sept. 5, 2022, Labor Day, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the signing of the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (AB 257), a win for California’s half a million fast food workers. Of those approximately 500,000 workers,  60% are Latino, 80% of them people of color, and two-thirds of them are women.

The bill authorizes the creation of the Fast Food Council, a body comprised of labor and management representatives to set minimum standards for workers including wages, health and safety conditions, the right to take time off of work, security in the workplace, and protection from discrimination and harassment.

“California is committed to ensuring that the men and women who have helped build our world-class economy are able to share in the state’s prosperity,” Governor Newsom said in a press release.

“Today’s action gives hard working fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry. I’m proud to sign this legislation on Labor Day when we pay tribute to the workers who keep our state running as we build a stronger, more inclusive economy for all Californians,” he continued.

The signing comes after a years-long struggle for workers' voices to be heard, a struggle in which many fast food workers have said they have been exploited and provided with unsafe working conditions. 

According to the Service Employees International Union, This has resulted in over 400 strikes and the filing of nearly 300 health, safety, and wage complaints across California to state and local agencies.

One such notable complaint occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in which a worker who tested positive for COVID was told “Just wear a mask and don’t tell anyone” by the manager of a Jack-in-the-Box fast food restaurant.

Jack-in-the-Box employee Ingrid Vilorio said in a press release that the fast food worker’s struggle "was a battle of Goliath versus David and we just had our voice to ensure AB 257 became a reality."

Part of what made efforts to get Governor Newsom and lawmakers to officiate the bill was a tactic known as “sectoral bargaining” in which workers in the same industry band together to promote change, rather than do it one company at a time.

Other industries, like the nail salon industry which reports rampant exploitation and abuse towards its service workers, could use similar tactics as they fight for better wages across the industry, the tactic prevalent both in the U.S. and in other countries, as well.

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