I’m a Proud McDonald’s Franchisee. But California’s Fast Food Liability Bill Undermines Local Ownership
- Assembly Bill 1228 seeks to increase workplace accountability for fast-food companies in California. However, the resulting changes could diminish the independence local owners enjoy as corporate offices try to reduce their liability.
I didn’t have a penny to my name or speak a word of English when I emigrated from India at 16 years old. I took the first job I could get, and started cleaning toilets at a McDonald’s in Alameda County. That started my 42-year journey with McDonald’s.
I worked in each position at the restaurant and eventually earned a spot as a general manager. In 2004, McDonald’s offered me a life-changing opportunity to own and operate a local franchise restaurant. Since then, I have leveraged that opportunity and now own and operate nine restaurants alongside my wife in Sacramento and the Central Valley.
The business I’ve built through McDonald’s is my pride and joy.
Assembly Bill 1228, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, is an infuriating attack on local franchised restaurants and small business owners like me. As a franchisee, acting as both the owner and operator of my local restaurants are key to our restaurants’ success. I maintain control over operating decisions including hiring, employee wages, scheduling, benefits and workplace standards.
AB 1228 could force national fast-food corporations to exert significant control over franchised restaurants by making the corporations legally liable for employment and personnel decisions that are typically made by local owners.
If corporations assume this new legal liability, they will have no choice but to seek out ways to take control of the operations of my restaurants. This policy would strip me of my authority and rights as a small business owner, and effectively demote me to middle management working for the corporation.
This is unfair, and it’s not right.
I prize the independence and autonomy of my business. That independence was central to my decision to become a franchisee. AB 1228 would force the corporation to micromanage my everyday business decisions and potentially rob more than 5,000 franchisees of the opportunity to become small business owners and pursue a better life for their families.
My restaurants employ more than 500 people. I work closely with my employees, and I invest in professional growth opportunities that help position them for success whether that be in our business or elsewhere. I’ve been in their shoes, and I take pride in creating a positive work environment where everyone is valued and respected. Many of my employees have worked at our restaurants for over 15 years as a result. I consider them family.
We also serve our community through food donations and school fundraisers. I operate like this because it’s the right thing to do and because investing in our community, valuing employees and creating a safe and compassionate place for them to work is a smart business strategy. We want to operate our businesses successfully for decades to come.
AB 1228 would break the bond I have with my employees and community by shredding my independence to make local decisions and be a thoughtful, responsive employer and community partner. It’s unimaginable why anyone would want to take decisions out of my hands and instead put out-of-state corporations in charge.
For many Californians – especially immigrants – the path to small business ownership is out of reach. Franchised restaurants provide a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs, many of whom are women, people of color and veterans. The franchise model provided me with a ladder, and I never stopped climbing.
Owning a restaurant has provided me with a life-changing opportunity that simply does not exist outside of the franchise model. The far-reaching impacts of AB 1228 could affect this path for myself and others, creating a new systemic barrier.
I hope the Legislature can see AB 1228 for what it really is.
This story was first published in CalMatters.org and republished here with permission. (Top photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local).
Jay Hazari owns and operates nine McDonald’s franchised restaurants in Sacramento and the Central Valley.