McDonald’s US president Joe Erlinger wrote in an open letter released on Wednesday that California’s proposed plan to establish a 10-person fast food council is “lopsided, hypocritical, and ill-considered,” and that it “hurts everyone.”
It may come as a surprise to learn that I, as President of McDonald’s USA, am in favor of raising the minimum wage for workers,” Erlinger stated. True statement: “I support legislation that raises wages for all workers.”
Erlinger argued that the legislation’s training provisions for creating “safe, inclusive, and respectful” workplaces have the potential to be “very beneficial” if implemented equally. However, he continued, “the exact opposite” would happen if the bill passed by California’s state legislature became law.
In order to set a minimum wage and requirements on conditions for worker health and safety, the California state senate recently enacted AB 257, the FAST Recovery Act, which would establish a 10-person committee comprised of fast-food employees, restaurant representatives, and government officials.
The council would be able to boost the minimum wage in the fast food industry to $22 per hour, and would have jurisdiction over companies with more than 100 sites across the country like McDonald’s. The minimum wage in California is $15.00 per hour as of 2019, and will increase to $15.50 per hour by 2023.
The California Fast Food Council “targets particular workplaces and not others,” according to Erlinger.
“It penalizes some restaurants while exempting others,” he explained. That holds true even if the two restaurants in question earn the same amount of money and employ the same total number of people.
He went on to say that the law might effect a local business owner who has two locations of the same large chain. Someone who owns 20 restaurants, but none of them are part of a national chain, would not be affected.
Erlinger called it “unexplainable” because certain eateries that bake their own bread and chains with fewer than 100 locations were not included. He concluded that the measure was “the product of backroom politicking.”
Picking “winners” and “losers” is not the government’s job, but that’s exactly what’s happening here, Erlinger argued.
Since McDonald’s is successful in countries with higher minimum wages, Erlinger argued that a $22 pay increase is not disastrous.
But he argued that if raising restaurant workers’ earnings and safeguarding their wellbeing is crucial, as he claimed it was, then all restaurant employees should gain.
Erlinger said that economists and the California Department of Finance both view the proposal as “problematic” due to the fact that it might add 20% to the price of food at fast food outlets in California at a time when food and other prices are already rising rapidly due to inflation.
Erlinger cautioned that even if California Governor Gavin Newsom doesn’t sign the law, it will spawn similar bills in other states.
Workers, owners, and customers who depend on a flourishing restaurant sector should push politicians to only consider legislation that benefits all, rather than asking for what many have criticized as the “California Food Tax,” as Erlinger put it in his article.
McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food franchise to oppose the law in California. Restaurant corporations such as Chipotle and Chick-fil-A have also pressured California legislators to vote down the bill because it will negatively impact their businesses.