Fast food coalition sues to block California labor bill AB 257

A group of companies and restaurant trade groups sued Thursday to block California from implementing a new labor law that would improve protections for fast-food workers.

California’s landmark law would, among other things, create a workers’ representative body with the power to raise wages.

The group, known as the Save Local Restaurants Coalition, is trying to qualify a referendum that would put the law on hold and ask California voters whether to keep or repeal it on the November 2024 ballot. Save Local Restaurants presented a little more of 1 million unverified signatures this month, well above the minimum required, making the referendum likely to be certified for the vote.

With the signature verification process still ongoing, the California Department of Industrial Relations said in a letter to the coalition that the law would take effect in January. 1.

In a statement Thursday, the governor. Gavin Newsom’s office reiterated the plan to enforce AB 257, also known as the Quick Recovery Act, in January 2018. 1.

“The act … gives fast food workers a seat at the table to establish fair wages and important health and safety standards. While the industry supports a referendum measure, the secretary of state has not certificate that it has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Erin Mellon, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an email. “The state has an obligation to enforce this important law unless that happens. Of course, we will abide by any court order.”

The industry coalition said bringing the law into effect would set a “dangerous precedent” that threatens voters’ right to a referendum. The group filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court to “ensure that the democratic process established by the California Constitution is respected.”

When the Secretary of State issued a notice in December. On Dec. 9, upon recognizing a sufficient raw count of submitted signatures, AB 257 became “ineffective and unenforceable in its entirety,” the coalition said.

The lawsuit represents another fight over AB 257, amid allegations from labor advocates who sponsored the law that signatures were fraudulently obtained and criticism that deep-pocketed industries have increasingly turned to the vote to delay progressive laws enacted by the state Legislature.

More than 50 referendum measures have qualified for California’s ballot in the century since the referendum process was created, but “in none of these prior instances did the state ever attempt to temporarily enforce the referenced statute while the signature review process was underway.” underway,” said Kurt Oneto, an attorney at the Nielsen Merksamer law firm representing the referendum’s proponents.

“By moving forward with implementing AB 257, the state would set a harmful precedent that would effectively render the state’s referendum process meaningless,” Oneto said in a statement.

In Tuesday’s letter to the coalition, Department of Industrial Relations Director Katrina Hagen said she and her staff were working to establish the Fast Food Council created by AB 257 and had “an obligation to proceed ” with the implementation of the law “in the absence of clear authority. . provided that AB 257 is suspended only upon the presentation of unverified signatures.”

Hagen wrote that the law would be put on hold “if and when” the referendum challenging it qualifies for a vote.

The lawsuit argues in response that referendum promoters have the power to suspend an “objectionable law from going into effect” by completing their end of the process — collecting and filing the minimum number of signatures with county election officials — before the deadline. of 90 days.

“Any additional, purely administrative time taken by election officials to complete the signature verification process or ‘certify’ the measure for the ballot cannot undermine or interfere with this constitutional right to a referendum,” the suit says.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction forcing California officials to suspend January. 1 law enforcement until the signature verification process is complete and, if there are enough valid signatures to qualify the referendum for voting, until voters intervene.

AB 257, signed into law by the governor. Gavin Newsom on Labor Day creates a mandate for a first-of-its-kind council to set standards for fast-food wages, hours and other working conditions.

The law requires the signatures of 10,000 fast-food restaurant employees to move forward with the creation of the council once the law takes effect. Service Employees International Union California, which sponsored AB 257 and opposes the effort to overturn it, said it has submitted nearly double the number of signatures required by statute to establish the Council of fast food.

The coalition’s effort “comes right out of the corporate playbook that Californians, unfortunately, know all too well. … This abuse of the referendum system has to stop,” said Tia Orr, executive director of SEIU California , in a statement sent by email. “While eager to come to the table to begin improving their industry, workers respect the state’s constitutional and democratic processes and expect the administration to verify their signatures.”

The lawsuit names the state officials responsible for enforcing AB 257, including Hagen of the Department of Industrial Relations, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and state Atty. January Rob Bonta

Representatives for the Department of Industrial Relations and the Secretary of State did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for the state Department of Justice said the California Department of Industrial Relations is the state attorney general’s client in this matter and declined to answer questions.

The counties have until January. 25-30 working days from December. 9 notice: to complete a random verification of signatures.

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