California fast food workers celebrate $20 minimum wage as managers, companies warn of cut hours, layoffs

"The pay increase marks a significant step forward for cooks and cashiers who have fought for over a decade for living wages and better working conditions — and it’s only the beginning of their fight," the union said.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The California Fast Food Workers Union held a rally on Wednesday celebrating the state requiring fast food workers to be paid at least $20 per hour. An email sent before the event stated that due to "low worker turnout," the event was no longer being advised for press coverage. The union claimed this email was a "mistake."

An initial email sent to KCRA California Capitol Correspondent Ashley Zavala stated that "fast-food cooks and cashiers from across Sacramento will hold a rally Wednesday to celebrate the historic fast-food minimum wage increase to $20/hr, which took effect on April 1."

"The pay increase marks a significant step forward for cooks and cashiers who have fought for over a decade for living wages and better working conditions — and it’s only the beginning of their fight."

The email stated that attendees of the rally would also be going to fast food locations within the city to "educate other cooks and cashiers about the raise, their rights and protections and what workers can continue to win together through the California Fast Food Workers Union."

A follow-up email stated, "This event is expected to have low worker turnout and is in fact not being advised to for press coverage. Please ignore the advisory that was sent before. Apologies for the inconvenience."

Zavala later reported that the rally was still going on as planned, and "one of the rally organizers says the email sent to media orgs about low worker turnout was a mistake."

Video of the event showed a small group celebrating outside the state capital.

The bill went into effect on April 1, and affects companies with more than 60 locations nationwide, according to the Washington Examiner.

Some companies and managers have warned that the pay increase will come alongside cut hours for employees.

"I am used to being a champion of labor, and I’m in this odd position," said Michela Mendelsohn, who manages six El Pollo Loco restaurants. "We’re having to get more efficient. So really, what’s left is … to reduce labor hours. And I hate saying that.”

One worker, Sangra Jauegui, said she was happy to get the additional money in her paycheck, but was worried about her co-workers’ hours being cut.

“My boss told me that he won’t reduce my hours but that he will cut others’ hours,” Jauregui said.

Companies such as Jack in the Box, Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Starbucks have warned that the wage increase could inflate menu prices by between 2.5 and 3.5 percent. Pizza Hut has warned around 1,000 workers that they could lose their jobs.

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