California Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers Increases to $20

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As of Apr. 1, 2024, fast food workers in California will earn a $20 minimum wage, an increase from $16 an hour.

The rate increase will impact about half a million workers at restaurant chains with 60 or more locations across the state, including McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, and Starbucks, among others. Chains with fewer than 60 locations are not subject to the pay bump. 

Employees appreciate the “breathing room” the increase is expected to give them for bills, but worry their hours will be cut to accommodate the cost of a higher wage. Pizza Hut, for example, laid off hundreds of delivery drivers in Dec. 2023, in anticipation of the wage hike.

Some restaurants, including Jack in the Box, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Chipotle, will increase prices for customers to offset the costs of retaining employees. Others are considering automation

The statewide minimum wage for jobs that are not fast food restaurants remains at $16 an hour. The federal minimum wage, most recently updated in 2009, remains at $7.25

1. Should the federal minimum wage be increased? Why or why not?

2. What should the minimum wage be? Should it vary by state? Explain your answers.

3. Should state (or federal) minimum wages be set according to job? For example, someone working at Starbucks in California can earn $20, but someone working at Old Navy can only earn $16.

Kurtis Lee, “Winners and Losers’ as $20 Fast-Food Wage Nears in California,”, Mar. 28, 2024

Vanessa Romo and Alina Selyukh, “California Fast-Food Workers Will Get $20 Minimum Wage, Starting Monday,”, Mar. 30, 2024

Alina Selyukh and Vanessa Romo, “Half a Million California Workers Will Get $20 Minimum Wage, Starting Today,”, Apr. 1, 2024