California sets new standard for workers with $20 minimum wage for fast-food workers; Fair wage advocates nationwide look to replicate victories and increase wages and end subminimum wages in multiple states

Starting Monday, April 1, California will lead the nation as the minimum wage for fast-food workers increases to $20 an hour, a significant increase from the $16 an hour that most other low-wage workers in the state currently earn.

This increase, a result of legislation passed last year and championed by workers, grassroots organizers, and labor groups, marks a substantial move towards fair compensation for the state’s working class. It represents a pivotal shift in the Golden State’s economy, addressing the ongoing affordability crisis and the worker exodus faced as a result of the COVID pandemic.

With the majority of low-wage workers being women and people of color, the increase takes a step towards addressing income disparities and the rising cost of living. As cited by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator, while an increase to $20 an hour is a significant step, it also a reminder of the need for advocacy to ensure wages keep pace with the cost of living.

Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage.

One Fair Wage, an organization representing 300,000 service workers currently subjected to a federal subminimum wage for tipped workers of just $2.13 per hour, applauds this achievement as a critical moment in its mission. The organization, committed to elevating state and federal minimum wages and abolishing all subminimum wages, views California’s wage increase as an catalyst for nationwide action.

Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, emphasized the broader impact of California’s wage increase. “This is not just a victory for California; it’s a catalyst for the entire nation. By setting this precedent, we’re demonstrating the undeniable power and impact of collective action among workers. Our work doesn’t stop here. One Fair Wage is actively campaigning in states across the country, from Ohio to Connecticut, to end the subminimum wage, elevate wages for all workers, and ensure that no state gets left behind in the pursuit of fair and equitable compensation.”

With California setting a precedent for higher wages in the fast-food industry, One Fair Wage spearheads efforts to enact similar increases through ballot measures and legislative actions in various states, including Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Colorado, Massachusetts, Illinois, Baltimore, New York, and Connecticut. These initiatives are integral to One Fair Wage’s strategy to amplify service workers’ voices, mobilizing a robust turnout to champion fair wages and improved working conditions across the United States.

About One Fair Wage
One Fair Wage is a national organization seeking to end all subminimum wages in the United States and increase the sustainability of wages and working conditions in the service sector. One Fair Wo policy would require all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top, lifting millions of tipped and subminimum wage workers nationally out of poverty.

About Saru Jayaraman
Saru Jayaraman is the President of One Fair Wage and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Co-founding the Restaurant Opportunities Center after 9/11 with displaced World Trade Center workers, she helped grow it into a national restaurant workers’ movement. Jayaraman launched One Fair Wage to end subminimum wages in the U.S., a campaign now highlighted in the film “Waging Change.” Her activism has earned recognition from the White House as a Champion of Change in 2014, the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2015, and the SF Chronicle’s ‘Visionary of the Year’ in 2019, among others. Saru, a Yale Law and Harvard Kennedy School graduate, has been featured on major media platforms and authored four books, including “One Fair Wage: Ending All Subminimum Pay in America.” Her work and campaigns, including attending the Golden Globes with Amy Poehler for the Times Up movement, have made significant impacts on the restaurant industry and workers’ rights.