Restaurant Worker Survey Refutes Attacks Against Franchisees

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As part of its campaign to organize restaurant workers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has taken direct aim at the franchise business model. This year, the union is endorsing AB1228, California legislation that would force countless franchisees in the state to close their doors or cut jobs.

The union’s case for AB1228 hinges on the false claim that franchisee-owned restaurants are especially bad violators of the state’s labor laws. As EPI has explained in a study and a subsequent blog post, both based on California data, this is not true:

  • In 2022, wage claims from franchisee-owned fast food restaurants represented just two-thirds of one percent (0.65%) of all wage claims filed in the state. This is less than half the estimated share of California employment held by franchisee-owned restaurants.
  • Reviewing only the investigated claims–or “actual violations” where the state issued penalties against employers–yields a similar result: Total fines assessed against franchisee-owned fast food restaurants represent just four-tenths of one percent of all fines levied statewide.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, the SEIU has continued to press its case, relying on a handful of anecdotal stories of employees who had bad experiences at franchisee-owned restaurants. These stories are an extreme exception rather than the rule.

According to new polling of 252 California restaurant workers, commissioned by EPI through the CARAVAN omnibus survey, the vast majority of the state’s hospitality workforce favors working for a franchisee. Specifically: Asked if they would prefer to work for a corporate entity or a locally-owned franchisee, 72 percent of California restaurant workers said they preferred the locally-owned option.

Size is no indicator of desirable work environment; plenty of corporately-owned restaurants have an equally-beneficial work culture. But these survey results–the voices of the workers themselves–further refute the SEIU’s bogus case against franchisee-owned restaurants.