In a historic move, a California fast food council will offer workers and labor advocates a way to implement industry working conditions for their employees. This five-year experiment will test the way these conditions are regulated across the state.

Set to begin on March 15, the decisions made will be sent to labor agencies to determine whether or not they will become new regulations. Governor Gavin Newsom is responsible for appointing seven of the council’s nine members, while legislative leaders will elect the remaining two to serve on a council that will be split 4-4 between business and labor. Newscom will also pick a chairperson unaffiliated with either fast food businesses or the people who work for them. This chairperson could rule with what has regularly been a tie-breaking vote.

David Huerto, SEIU California President, stated previously that this council would “Put power in the hands of the workers to improve conditions across their entire industry.” However, after two years of political arguments between business and labor, the fate of the regulation will fall on whoever gains the most votes. Restaurant owners are already bracing themselves for the upcoming spike in the minimum wage.

Just this past December, two Pizza Hut franchise owners decided that they would eliminate delivery services and lay off more than 1,100 drivers in February, citing the state law that will raise the minimum wage to $20 in April. Jeff Hanscom of the International Franchise Association claimed that other restaurant owners across the state are considering whether they will do the same, stating that “You can’t have a double-digit percentage increases in wages overnight, and not expect there to be repercussions.” Customers would therefore have to rely on third-party services to receive their deliveries. 

The law has drawn backlash from other restaurant franchise owners, who have only recently learned that they would be included under any new regulations resulting from this council, including the wage hike. However, the council cannot rule on manners related to employers giving their employees more time off, or adopting predictable scheduling policies for their businesses.

The council’s first meeting will be held in March, and it will be held every six months afterward as part of the Department of Industrial Relations. Governor Newscom, who will pick from a pool of fast food workers, franchise owners, corporate representatives, and a neutral member of the public, did not state what he is looking for in appointees. This council will also include non-voting representatives that come from the Department of Industrial Relations and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. 

Though no appointees have yet to be announced, Maria Maldonado, a statewide leader who has organized efforts of fast food workers through the Fight for 15 campaign, has said that she has been interviewed with the Legislature for a workers’ advocate seat. 

With the hopes that businesses will work together, competing with concerns about how employees will be affected by this council and their new regulations, businesses are bracing for what many have come to call “the fast food worker battles of 2024.”