LIVERMORE, Calif. (NEWSnet/AP) — Beginning Monday, most fast-food workers in California will be paid at least $20 per hour.

The legislature approved the measure in September 2023.

The law applies to restaurants offering limited or no table service and that are part of a national chain with at least 60 establishments nationwide. Restaurants operating inside, a grocery establishment are exempt, as are restaurants producing and selling bread as a stand-alone item.

It was supported by the trade association representing fast food franchise owners. Since passage, some franchise owners have bemoaned the impact the law is having on them.

Alex Johnson, who owns 10 Auntie Anne's Pretzels and Cinnabon restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, said sales have slowed in 2024, prompting layoffs, and he must rely on his parents to help with payroll and human resources.

Increasing wages will cost Johnson about $470,000 each year., he said He will have to raise prices anywhere from 5% to 15% at his stores, and is no longer hiring or seeking to open new locations in California, he said.

“I try to do right by my employees. I pay them as much as I can. But this law is really hitting our operations hard,” Johnson said. “I have to consider selling and even closing my business. The profit margin has become too slim.”

Over the past decade, California has doubled its minimum wage for most workers, to $16 per hour. A big concern over that time was whether the increase would cause some workers to lose their jobs as employers' expenses increased.

Data showed wages increased and employment did not fall, said Michael Reich, a labor economics professor at University of California-Berkeley.

“I was surprised at how little, or how difficult it was to find disemployment effects. If anything, we find positive employment effects,” Reich said.

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