McDonald's President Spoke Out Against California's New Fast Food Law

There's a war in California, and the president of McDonald's has publicly chosen a side. The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST Act) was passed by the state legislature in September 2022, which could have radically changed the lives of fast food workers by establishing a minimum wage of $22 per hour and setting standards ensuring that fast food restaurants are safe working environments. A business coalition sued the state to stop the FAST Act from taking effect, seeking to bring the issue before the voters in a referendum, and earlier this month, a judge issued a ruling halting the FAST Act until signatures on the petition for the referendum could be verified.

The Sacramento Bee reported on January 25, 2023, that the petition had enough valid signatures, and voters will decide in November 2024 whether the state of California can establish a council with the power to set a minimum wage and establish working standards for the fast food industry. On January 25, California resident and president of McDonald's, Joe Erlinger, published an open letter on the company's website, in which he lays out his position on the FAST Act. Spoiler alert: he opposes it.

Erlinger says California is putting bad politics over good policy

While Joe Erlinger's letter asserts his support for "legislation that leads to meaningful improvements in our communities, including responsible increases to the minimum wage," he's clearly opposed to the FAST ACT, laying out his case against the act that he argues will not only imperil business growth and drive up fast food prices but also won't accomplish its aim of helping fast food workers.

Business Insider, which points out that Erlinger's compensation from McDonald's for 2021 totaled roughly $7.4 million, reported that a number of California fast food workers intended to strike to signal their opposition to the 2024 referendum that's supported by McDonald's and other chain businesses. The Sacramento Bee shared a statement from McDonald's employee Angelica Hernandez, who said, "We can't afford to wait another two years for the seat at the table we've already won," adding, "Until we get it, we refuse to back down from our fight."

While the battle in California is waged by workers' rights organizations against business coalitions, the conflict appears to be spreading beyond state borders. According to Virginia's Legislative Information System, a bill similar to California's FAST Act was introduced by Irene Shin on January 20, 2023, and it's currently before the Committee on Rules.