FILE - woman working in food service, fast food, hospitality

(The Center Square) – A proposed referendum challenging a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that would create a state council to set standards for the fast food industry was filed this week, representing an attempt by opponents to overturn the measure.

Newsom signed Assembly Bill 257 into law on Monday, which authorizes the creation of a state council to set regulations for the fast food industry, including minimum standards for wages, working hours and working conditions. The bill specifies that the council could raise wages no higher than $22 an hour starting in 2023.

Opponents of the measure have raised concern about the potential price impact to consumers, citing an analysis from the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting Development that showed prices could increase by between 20% and 22% if limited-service restaurant worker compensation increases by 60%.

Within days of the bill being signed, a group of small business owners, franchisees and restaurateurs formed a coalition called Protect Neighborhood Restaurants and filed a referendum to overturn the law and send the measure before voters in 2024. Business groups and franchisors fiercely opposed AB 257 as lawmakers considered it.

“As a result of backroom politicking, Governor Newsom has signed a lie into law and maligned all of California’s quick service small businesses and local franchisees as bad employers,” the coalition said in a statement Wednesday. “AB 257 never should have been introduced, it never should have passed, and it never should have been signed into law by the Governor.”

To qualify the referendum for the 2024 ballot, supporters must collect over 623,000 signatures by December, according to California law. If enough valid signatures are collected and the referendum qualifies for the ballot, the law would be suspended until it goes before voters.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office told the Wall Street Journal that a title and summary for the measure would be issued by Sept. 16. After that is issued, supporters can begin collecting signatures.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) criticized the proposed referendum Wednesday. The SEIU supported the bill as it wove through the Legislature, praising the measure for giving California’s more than half a million fast food workers a seat at the table to have a say in their working conditions.

“With AB 257, California has the opportunity to lead the way for expanding rights for working people and show the nation a model for building a healthy and sustainable fast-food industry,” SEIU California President David Huerta said in a statement. “But if billion-dollar fast food corporations want a referendum on their treatment of workers, bring it on. We are confident that California’s voters will stand on the side of fast food workers and reject the industry’s model built on poverty wages, unsafe work conditions, discrimination, and bullying and harassment of workers.”

The proposed referendum is the latest attempt to overturn laws coming out of Sacramento by sending it before voters. This November, voters will consider a referendum challenging the state’s flavored tobacco ban.

Staff Reporter

Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering California for The Center Square. Madison has experience covering both local and national news. She currently resides in Southern California.