Minimum Wage Is Now $20 an Hour for California Fast Food Workers

The new minimum wage took effect on April 1.

A person flips fries in a fryer.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Minimum wage for fast food employees in California rose to $20 per hour on Monday, impacting more than half a million workers.

The legislation establishing the new minimum wage – AB 1228 – was passed last September and took effect on April 1, raising the minimum wage by 20% from $16 per hour to $20 per hour. The new wage impacts workers at limited-service restaurants that are part of a national fast food chain with at least 60 establishments nationwide, according to the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, AB 1228 allows the Fast Food Council, which is part of California’s Department of Industrial Relations, to raise this wage annually and allows it to develop proposals for other working conditions, including health and safety standards, the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

“California is home to more than 500,000 fast-food workers who – for decades – have been fighting for higher wages and better working conditions,” Newsom said in a September 2023 statement. “Today, we take one step closer to fairer wages, safer and healthier working conditions, and better training by giving hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table.”

With the new minimum wage, if, for example, someone is working 20 hours per week, they would make $400 per week, pre-tax, or $20,800 for a full 52 weeks. Working a full, consistent 40 hours per week would mean making, pre-tax, under $45,000 a year. 

But a federal minimum wage hike is unlikely

While some states have taken action to raise their minimum wage, the federal minimum wage has sat at $7.25 per hour since 2009.

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation in July 2023 that would raise the federal minimum wage to $17 by 2028 and benefit nearly 28 million workers.

“The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be raised to a living wage – at least $17 an hour,” Sanders said in a statement. “In the year 2023 a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and record-breaking corporate profits, we can no longer tolerate millions of workers being unable to feed their families because they are working for totally inadequate wages. Congress can no longer ignore the needs of the working class of this country. The time to act is now.”

However, there has been limited momentum on a federal minimum wage, making it an unlikely case in the immediate future. 

Related Content

Joey Solitro

Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration.