Legislation

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

FAST Act Dealt Knockdown Blow

FAST Act Dealt Knockdown Blow

by David Klemt

Boxer being knocked back by punch

A bill we think is one to watch, California’s Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, may be on the ropes already.

Assembly Bill 257, known as the FAST Act, is “on hold” until 2024. So, while the Save Local Restaurants coalition and voters have yet to kill the bill, it may be out on its feet.

We reported two months ago that fast food chains were moving quickly to kill the FAST Act. It appears that the initial attack on AB-257 was successful.

That is, the chains and coalition got what they want: the ballot initiative vote has knocked down AB-257.

For those unfamiliar with the Save Local Restaurants Coalition, the following organizations are members: The National Restaurant Association (NRA), US Chamber of Commerce (USCC), and International Franchise Association (IFA). Further, fast-casual and QSR chain coalition members—including Starbucks, In N Out, McDonald’s, and Chipotle—threw nearly $13 million at the ballot measure that halted FAST.

What’s FAST?

To read AB-257, the FAST Act, in its entirety, click here.

In summary, FAST:

FAST does the following:

  • establishes the Fast Food Council, ten members appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Senate Rules Committee. The council will operate until January 1, 2029;
  • defines “the characteristics of a fast food restaurant“;
  • gives the Fast Food Council the authority to set “minimum fast food restaurant employment standards, including standards on wages, working conditions, and training“;
  • provides the council the power to “issue, amend, and repeal any other rules and regulations, as necessary”; and
  • allows the formation of a Local Fast Food Council by a county, or a city that has a population of more than 200,000.

Voters effectively stopped California from implementing FAST until November 2024 at the earliest. (That is, if the California Secretary of State verifies that the referendum effort did indeed secure the required amount of signatures.)

Opposition

A statement from Save Local Restaurants reads, in part:

The quick-service restaurants targeted by the law – which include coffee shops, juice bars, pizzerias, delis, and salad shops – already operate on small, single-digit profit margins. These include more than 10,000 small businesses, including thousands of women- and minority-owned businesses.

If these restaurants are forced to absorb the costs, the result will be bad for workers and local communities. To survive, many restaurant owners will have no choice but to reduce worker hours or introduce automation. Some may choose to leave their communities entirely or go out of business.

As is often the case with overreaching California policies, this is likely only the beginning.

Additionally, the National Restaurant Association, a member of the coalition, has said the following:

The impacts of the FAST Act won’t be limited to quick service restaurants in California. The law allows the new regulating council to set a higher minimum wage for quick service restaurants. Independent restaurants will, however, be forced to increase their pay to match, so they can remain competitive when recruiting and retaining workforce.

Takeaway

We believe this bill is one to watch because similar efforts could spring up in other states. Also, just because the bill is on hold until 2024 in California doesn’t mean other states aren’t working on similar legislation right now.

Now, there are obviously two sides to consider. Opponents, as we see above, say FAST will raise prices, eliminate jobs, and hurt families.

Proponents believe FAST will protect the health, safety, and welfare of fast-food workers. Additionally, the Fast Food Council could increase the minimum wage for fast food workers above California’s $15.50 minimum (effective January 1, 2023).

We’ll keep an eye on FAST over the next couple of years. Perhaps the coalition can work with California on a bill that protects fast food workers and doesn’t hurt operators and the communities they serve.

At any rate, FAST is down but certainly not yet out.

Image: Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

$28.82 per Hour for NYC Delivery Workers?

$28.82 per Hour for NYC Delivery Workers?

by David Klemt

Delivery worker on bicycle on city street

In response to the New York City Council’s proposal of $23.82 per hour for delivery workers, some “deliveristas” are asking for more.

Now, before we proceed, no, this isn’t a re-run of an article from last week. This isn’t a case of déjà vu—it’s the evolution of a news story that’s developing rapidly.

So, how much more do delivery workers in NYC want? Well, they’re after a significant bump over the council’s minimum hourly wage proposal.

Requesting that the NYC Council more accurately account for deliverista expenses, some delivery workers are asking for $28.82 per hour.

Early last week, a group consisting of Los Deliveristas Unidos and the Worker’s Justice Project members came together. They gathered at New York City Hall to make their stance on the NYC Council’s minimum wage proposal.

As the deliveristas see it, an increase from $23.82 to $28.82 more accurately reflects their operating expenses. The argument is compelling when one considers costs beyond fuel.

Asking for More

After all, not every delivery worker in NYC (and other markets) uses a car, truck or SUV to make deliveries. That should explain the use of the term “delivery worker,” not “delivery driver.” Some deliveristas ride motorcycles, mopeds, or bicycles. I’m willing to bet some even use scooters, rollerblades, or skateboards.

Using any mode of transportation as a delivery worker comes with requirements, both legal and practical. For example, deliveristas must maintain insurance, maintain their transportation, and purchase and maintain safety equipment.

And yes, that safety equipment is crucial. According to some reports, around a third of NYC those who deliver on two wheels have been injured on the job. Tragically, 33 delivery workers have been killed since 2020. In fact, NYC says delivery workers have the highest injury rate.

Another interesting development may seem semantic. However, when one takes time to truly consider the point it’s rather poignant.

In asking for the proposal of $23.82 to rise by $5 by 2025, are asking for a living wage. Not minimum wage, as the proposal frames the hike, but a living wage.

One worker, Antonio Solís, as quoted by The City, a non-profit NYC news publication, explained: “We are asking the city to make a $5 adjustment, to go that extra mile to ensure we get to a living wage.”

A Request, not a Rejection

It’s also important to note that NYC’s delivery workers aren’t rejecting the council’s minimum wage proposal. Rather, the request is that the council considers updating their proposal ahead of a December 16 public hearing on the matter.

So far, companies like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats haven’t released much in the way of statements. However, there have been reports quoting a handful of representatives. In pushing back against the proposal, they’ve mentioned increased costs; reduced deliveries; and the possibility of “locking out” deliveristas if delivery demand is low at a given time.

Should legislation go into effect after the public hearing, it’s likely we’ll see lawsuits from the delivery companies.

Image: Patrick Connor Klopf on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Merchants Support Credit Card Act

100s of Merchants Support Credit Card Competition Act

by David Klemt

Customer paying via Square terminal

Perhaps at least somewhat unsurprisingly, support for the Credit Card Competition Act is growing rapidly among merchants.

In fact, 1,802 merchants are making their position on the bill clear. Those hundreds of merchants drafted, signed, and set a letter to the House and Senate.

The crux of that letter? To tell our lawmakers to support and pass the Credit Card Competition Act.

To view the letter, sent by the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC), please click here. For the bill and its status, follow this link.

The Credit Card Competition Act: A Quick Summary

According to the MPC, credit and debit card transactions just in the US reached $3.49 trillion in 2021. Along with those transactions came $77.48 billion in merchant fees—just for Visa and MasterCard.

Why call those out those two processors in particular? Well, it’s because they’re behind about 576 million credit cards. Oh, and they also control 87 percent of the processing market.

In the span of just one decade, Visa and MasterCard swipe fees have risen 137 percent. So, it’s not surprising that merchants are supportive of the Credit Card Competition Act.

There are, indeed, restaurant and hospitality groups attached to the MPC’s letter to Congress. Taking a quick glance, Denny’s franchisees, Dutchman Hospitality Group, and Mandalay Hospitality Group are among the signees.

Obviously, this makes sense—swipe fees are among the highest costs operators face every day.

Where’s this Bill Currently?

It shouldn’t be too shocking to find that this has yet to make much progress. The bill’s sponsors, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Marshall (R-KS), introduced it in the senate at the end of July.

Three months later, October 28, an attempt was made to include the bill in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). For those who are unfamiliar, the NDAA is known as a “must-pass” bill. After all, it specifies the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) budget and expenditures each year.

Along with a reported 900 other “riders,” Sens. Durbin and Marshall tried to get their bill passed within the NDAA. Unfortunately for the senators and supporters of the bill, the NDAA vote was pushed until the middle of November…which we’re now past.

Of course, the US did just undergo a mid-term election cycle. So, I suppose it’s reasonable to be a bit more patient with the Senate and the progress of this bill.

Those who work in or support our industry can make their opinion of this bill known. Just follow this link to the National Restaurant Association Credit Card Competition Act portal.

Image: Clay Banks on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Credit Card Competition Act, Take Two

Credit Card Competition Act, Take Two

by David Klemt

American Express charge cards

As we approach Election Day on November 8, it’s important to keep in mind that the Credit Card Competition Act of 2022 is still in play.

In fact, reports predict that another attempt to pass the bipartisan bill will take place in November. If reports are accurate, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) will try to include the bill in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Now, that sentence and strategy may have you scratching your head. What, you may be asking yourself, do credit card fees have to do with defense spending?

Well, not much, truthfully. But you’re probably well aware that politicians will try to amend bills in bids to pass legislation they want. The common term for such a provision is “rider.”

It’s not difficult to understand why the Credit Card Competition Act has gone nowhere when we view Sens. Durbin and Marshall’s rider tactic.

Earlier this month, the senators attempted to include their bill within the NDAA. The reason is simple: the bill specifies the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) budget and expenditures each year. In other words, this is a “must-pass” bill.

However, Sens. Durbin and Marshall aren’t the only senators sponsoring bills. And they’re certainly not the only senators attempting to attach riders to the NDAA.

“It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.”

I will say, at least Sen. Durbin’s effort to attach the Credit Card Competition Act rider to the NDAA is somewhat related to the DoD.

You see, he and Sen. Marshall tried to tack on two amendments to push their bill through. The first amendment theorizes that veterans are being hurt by credit card fees. According to the senators, when military veterans make purchases at a military commissary, they are sometimes subjected to surcharges related to merchant interchange fees.

The second amendment brings the US Treasury Department and US Defense Department into the mix. This effort directs the departments to research just how much veterans are paying (annually, one would assume) in surcharges, and which companies these fees benefit. Then, the departments are to issue this report to Congress.

So, hey, points for attempting to make including the Credit Card Competition Act of 2022 relate to the NDAA for FY 2022. Of course, other senators are attempting to include their own riders. Should reporting prove accurate, some 900 amendments have been proposed. Supposedly, a few dozen might just make it.

This strategy didn’t work this month because the NDAA vote isn’t taking place in October. Instead, the plan is for the vote to take place sometime mid-November, when the US Senate reconvenes.

To learn more about the Credit Card Act of 2022, click here. If it’s a bill you support, let your elected officials know. Should you oppose the bill, let that be known to lawmakers as well.

Image: CardMapr.nl on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Cali Chains Move Quickly to Kill FAST

California Chains Move Quickly to Kill FAST

by David Klemt

Huge pile of cash

If recent reporting is accurate, fast food chains with locations in California are fighting the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act.

Several well-known restaurant chains have reportedly already dumped well over $10 million into a ballot drive effort. Among the chains lobbying to kill the bill are In N Out, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Chipotle.

In other words, the group of chains aiming to defeat AB-257 in California have very deep pockets. These heavy hitters are reaching deep to contribute millions of dollars to Save Local Restaurants, the coalition responsible for starting the ballot initiative.

And who are the Save Local Restaurants coalition members? The National Restaurant Association (NRA), US Chamber of Commerce (USCC), and International Franchise Association (IFA).

What is AB-257?

The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, also known as the FAST Act, is a California bill. Enacted on September 5 of this year, FAST amends a section of the state’s labor code that relates to food facilities and employment.

Click here to review the bill’s text in its entirety.

To summarize, FAST does the following:

  • Establishes the Fast Food Council, ten members appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Senate Rules Committee. The council will operate until January 1, 2029.
  • Defines “the characteristics of a fast food restaurant.”
  • Gives the Fast Food Council the authority to set “minimum fast food restaurant employment standards, including standards on wages, working conditions, and training.”
  • Provides the council the power to “issue, amend, and repeal any other rules and regulations, as necessary.”
  • Allows the formation of a Local Fast Food Council by a county, or a city that has a population of more than 200,000.

It’s that third bullet point that likely stands out the most to chain operators. On January 1, 2023, California’s minimum wage increases to $15.50 an hour. If the Save Local Restaurants ballot initiative fails, the Fast Food Council could boost the minimum wage to $22 per hour right after we all yell, “Happy New Year!”

Proponents say the bill protects the health, safety, and welfare of fast-food workers. Opponents call it radical.

Fighting FAST

According to Save Local Restaurants, it’s not just chains that want to kill FAST:

“The FAST Act is opposed by small and family-owned businesses, minority-rights groups, workers, consumers, your favorite restaurants, taxpayers and community-based organizations,” reads their website.

Among their reasons for attempting to kill the bill are:

  • a resulting increase in the price of food;
  • the elimination of thousands of jobs in California;
  • an increase in the cost of living in the state; and
  • the millions of dollars the coalition claims the bill will cost California taxpayers annually.

Reportedly, full-service restaurant operators also oppose FAST. The reason is simple: If the Fast Food Council hikes fast-food worker minimum hourly wages significantly, FSRs will struggle to compete. FSR operators will have to hike menu item prices further, a situation that’s growing untenable as consumers balk at paying more at restaurants.

Then, there’s the fact that bills similar to FAST could pass in other states. So, chains are contributing millions to see that the Save Local Restaurants ballot initiative succeeds.

Should the effort be successful, FAST will be included on California’s 2024 ballot. That means it will be suspended until 2024 and be in the hands of the voters.

Image: Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Swipe Fees Cost Over $77 Billion in 2021

Swipe Fees Cost Merchants Over $77 Billion in 2021

by David Klemt

Close up of stack of credit cards

A bill that intends to lower the credit card fees merchants pay by creating more competition within the industry is before Congress.

This bill, the Credit Card Competition Act of 2022, has bipartisan support. The two sponsors behind it are Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Marshall (R-KS).

Of particular note, the bill seeks to amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. Specifically, the amendment targets the networks that merchants use to process electronic credit card transactions.

In short, banks that issue credit cards would have to merchants at least two processing networks. According to experts in this space, the bill prohibits banks from making those networks Visa and MasterCard.

Billions in Fees

So, why are Visa and MasterCard in the crosshairs of this bill?

According to the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC), Visa and MasterCard control 87 percent of credit (and debit) card markets. Per the MPC, Visa and MasterCard account for about 576 million credit cards.

In the U.S. alone, transactions amounted to $3.49 trillion in 2021. Eye-wateringly, those transactions were accompanied by $77.48 billion in merchant fees for the two processing behemoths in the same year.

For additional context, Visa and MasterCard swipe fees totaled $61.6 billion in 2020. That represents an increase of 137 percent over the decade prior. Adding the merchant fees for all cards, the 2020 total was $110.3 billion, which is an increase of 70 percent from the previous ten years.

As veteran operators are well aware, swipe fees are among the highest costs for restaurants and bars.

Merchants Payments Coalition Sends Letter to Congress

Compellingly, the MPC is urging Congress to investigate the Visa-MasterCard duopoly. In their view, the two processors’ dominance is stifling competition; harming business owners and consumers; and contributing to inflation.

“The two giant card networks and their partner mega-banks routinely use their market power to stifle competition and charge merchants the highest swipe fees in the industrialized world,” reads the MPC’s letter to Congress.

Further, the letter states, “It is difficult to imagine any other market in the U.S. economy in which two entities set prices for thousands of businesses that should be competitors. That lack of competition or downward pricing pressure has resulted in out-of-control swipe fees and increases inflation throughout the economy.”

The MPC is urging Congress to act quickly and effectively: “It is crucial for Congress to act swiftly and implement real reforms to bring true competition, transparency and equity to the U.S. payments market.”

National Restaurant Association Supports the Bill

Interestingly, the National Restaurant Association says they’re working with the MPC.

The NRA is also working with other organizations to drum up support for the the Credit Card Competition Act of 2022.

You can read about their support for the bill on their website. Additionally, you can tell Congress to pass the bill here. As it stands currently, no action beyond the bill’s introduction to the Senate on July 28 has taken place.

Image: Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

NRA Sends Survey Results to Congress

NRA Sends Economic Survey Results to Congress

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building beneath cloudy skies

On the heels of the IRC’s National Day of Action to Save Restaurants, the National Restaurant Association has sent a letter to Congress.

Sent by Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of the NRA, the letter urges Congress to finally replenish the RRF.

“After two years of closures, COVID-19 variants, worker shortages, and inflationary pressure,” reads the letter, in part, “a dangerous number of restaurants are at the end of the line.”

A Critical Moment

As I’ve written several times (exhaustively, some would say), the bill meant to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was first introduced in June 2021. We’re now a week away from February 2022.

In August of last year, a unanimous consent vote to provide $43 billion in emergency funding to the industry was shot down by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Build Back Better passed the House in November 2021. However, it didn’t include the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act.

As expressed by Sean Kennedy in an email sent yesterday, we’re at a critical juncture. Kennedy points to two dates when making his point: February 18 and March 1.

All government spending expires on the former date, and President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union Address on the latter date. Kennedy suggests that the only large-scale spending bill of 2022 will be passed between those dates.

So, it’s probable that we have mere weeks to pressure Congress into replenishing the RRF.

The Numbers

Kennedy’s letter to Congress is addressed to Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Citing the results of the NRA’s largest-ever economic survey, Kennedy urges action on the RRF from Congress. The NRA’s executive vice president estimates that replenishing the RRF will save over 1.6 million restaurant jobs.

Below are the survey results included in Kennedy’s letter to Congress:

  • 88 percent of restaurants saw decline in customer demand for indoor on-premises dining due to the omicron variant.
  • 76 percent of operators report that business conditions are worse now than they were just three months prior.
  • 74 percent of operators say their restaurant is less profitable now than it was prior to the pandemic.
  • Almost 50 percent of restaurant operators who didn’t receive RRF grants feel it’s unlikely that they’ll stay in business beyond the pandemic without a grant.
  • 94 percent of restaurant operators who applied for an RRF grant but did not receive funding said a future grant would enable them to retain or hire back employees.
  • 96 percent of recipients said the RRF grant made it more likely that they would be able to remain in business.
  • 92 percent of recipients said the RRF grant they received helped them pay expenses or debt that had accumulated since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The initial round of grants, per the NRA, likely saved more than 900,000 restaurant jobs.

Now is not the time to relent—we need to keep up the pressure. If Kennedy and the NRA are correct, we have only weeks to receive the help our industry needs and deserves.

Image: Harold Mendoza on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Months Pass, RRF Still not Replenished

Months Pass, RRF Replenishment Remains Uncertain

by David Klemt

Time has run out hourglass, black and white

If you’re wondering if the RRF Replenishment Act of 2021 or ENTREE Acts are making progress, you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, it appears far too many politicians on all sides are focusing on anything but our industry.

Indeed, it’s apparently more important that they score political “points” for sniping at each other on social media; engage in hyperbole and histrionics; and overall engage in brinksmanship instead of doing anything meaningful for their constituents.

Meanwhile, the industry has lost more than $300 billion in revenue over 19 months. Additionally, we’re short at least one million jobs.

So, it’s not hyperbolic to state this: It’s no longer time for Congress to act, time has very much run out.

It’s up for owners and operators, their teams, and their teams’ families.

Replenish RRF Act

As people familiar with the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will recall, the fund launched with $28.6 billion. Obviously, that was nowhere near enough funding to meet the demand for grants.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that 177,000 grant applicants are still waiting for assistance. Those applications total more than $43 billion.

Essentially, $60 billion would be printed to replenish the RRF. That’s according to the language in the RRF Replenishment Act bill.

In June, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bill.

It’s now the middle of October.

ENTREE Act

Toward the end of July, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced an alternative bill.

A ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business, Rep. Luetkemeyer proposed the Entrepreneurs Need Timely Replenishment for Eating Establishments Act on July 20.

Again, that was in July and it’s now October 25.

Known as the ENTREE Act (acronyms are fun, eh?), this bill wouldn’t just create $60 billion out of thin air.

Instead, per the text of the bill, the ENTREE Act would use unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Now What?

In early August, there was an attempt made to replenish the RRF with $48 billion of emergency funding.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with a bipartisan group of senators, sought unanimous consent to authorize the funds.

Unfortunately, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the unanimous consent motion. The measure was blocked due to Sen. Paul’s objection and the RRF didn’t receive any emergency funds.

So, now what? In August, political insiders expressed their opinion that the ENTREE Act wasn’t likely to be passed.

Meanwhile, the RRF Replenishment Act hasn’t made significant progress since it was first introduced in June.

Most recently, members of the Independent Restaurant Coalition held a press conference with Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN). During the press conference, it was pointed out that Congress was voting on infrastructure bills that didn’t contain the RRF Replenishment or ENTREE Acts.

The most that can be said currently about any “progress” is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made a promise that relief for the industry is coming, somehow, during some unknown timeframe.

Great. In the meantime, you, your family members, your friends, and your guests can contact their reps to put more pressure on them to replenish the RRF. You can also click here for more ideas from the IRC on how to get the message across that our representatives need to act now.

Perhaps reminders that every House seat and 34 Senate seats are up for re-election next year will help spur some action.

Image: Eduin Escobar from Pixabay

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