Chick-fil-A has plenty of critics, between its Human Rights Watch goose egg for an LGBTQ-friendly workplace and the masses left starving for chicken on Sundays. But anyone who’s eaten there knows that the employees do, in fact, smile more than anyone else in fast food, and it seems that staff at one California location will soon have an extra reason to grin: ABC 10 reports that a Sacramento franchisee named Eric Mason will start paying employees $17 to $18 an hour at his store on Monday. Workers will also be eligible to receive paid sick leave, and his supervisors will qualify for paid time off.
It’s unclear whether this new wage applies to all employees, but Mason tells the station that it’s for “hospitality professionals” who are eligible, which is corporate-speak that means it will apply to the entry-level jobs at Mason’s store, a group he reportedly pays $12 to $13 an hour at the moment. This also puts Mason’s store well above California’s minimum-wage law, which is one of the U.S.’s most generous: It’s currently set at $11 per hour, and that hourly rate climbs 50 cents a year until 2022, when it will finally reach $15.
In other words, next week these workers will start making, at the very least, $2 to $3 more than California’s 2022 minimum wage. That’s an impressive raise anywhere, but the restaurant industry in particular has fought a (mostly losing) battle against the so-called $15 “living wage” for years. Mason admits that paying his staff in excess of that will be “challenging,” but adds that his philosophy is, people are the “key component to successful businesses.” To attract workers “looking for long-term opportunity,” he’s willing to pay enough to keep them from juggling multiple jobs, and eventually help them “raise families” and “improve their lifestyle.” Chick-fil-A tells ABC 10 that it is cool with Mason compensating workers that well, and is even letting him run ads and post signs bragging about the starting rate.
For perspective, consider that Danny Meyer, a big champion of fair worker pay, has suggested that $15 an hour is completely acceptable for New York restaurant workers, and he actually doesn’t even guarantee Shake Shack employees that kind of rate yet, much less $17 or $18. However, also remember that Chick-fil-A generates more revenue per store than any other fast-food chain while still only being open six days a week. If anyone can afford to pay workers an actual living wage, it’s one of these franchisees.