While most eyes in the foodservice industry will be focused on the fiercely contested national elections Nov. 6 and such critical issues as health care, tax reform and labor, a handful of local ballot initiatives also are expected to impact restaurateurs in select cities and counties.
The National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., is monitoring several measures around the country that could affect day-to-day operations for some operators, according to Brendan Flanagan, the NRA’s vice president of state and locale affairs.
Chief among them are minimum wage, paid sick leave and the obesity issue. “These are issues we’ve seen and will continue to see,” Flanagan said.
Here's a breakdown of those issues:
• On Nov. 6 voters in San Jose, Calif., will choose whether or not to increase the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour. The San Jose initiative would be indexed to inflation, which would allow it to rise proportionately over time.
• Residents of Albuquerque, N.M., also will vote on a minimum wage initiative, deciding whether to leave it at $7.50 per hour or raise it a dollar to $8.50. In addition, the measure seeks to raise the minimum wage for tipped employees from the current $2.13 an hour to 60 percent of the minimum wage level. Both wages would be tied to any increases in inflation and examined every year. The initiative is being challenged by the NRA’s Restaurant Advocacy Fund.
The last time a minimum wage hike came up for a vote in Albuquerque was in 2005, when voters rejected the measure.
• While not restaurant oriented, a ballot question in Long Beach, Calif., will address both the minimum wage and the sick leave questions for a group of hotel workers. Although it would only affect employees at 15 of Long Beach’s hotels, it would hike the minimum wage for those individuals to $13 an hour and would be indexed to the inflation rate. In addition, it would provide five days of sick leave.
• The NRA also is monitoring two proposed taxes in Richmond, Calif., and El Monte, Calif. Both ballot initiatives would levy a one-cent-per-ounce tax and sugar-sweetened beverages in an effort to help combat the rising obesity problem.
While not a ballot question, the NRA also is supporting a lawsuit in New York City that challenges a recently passed ban on the service of large sodas and sugary drinks. The initiative, which was championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and designed to address the nation’s health and obesity problems, establishes a 16-ounce size limit on sodas or other sugary beverages served at restaurants, sports venues, movie theaters, street carts and delis. According to Flanagan, the NRA is hoping the court will address the lawsuit and rule on it no later than December, because restaurateurs would have to comply by March.
Meanwhile, several initiatives that would have impacted the industry were headed off before they were able to come to a vote.
• The NRA was following a measure in Orange County, Fla., which would have decided whether or not full- and part-time employees would have been entitled to earn one hour of sick leave for every 37 hours they work, up to a maximum of 56 hours per year. It did not finally qualify as a ballot initiative, though.
• In addition, the foodservice industry was successful in the state of Missouri when it helped to prevent a minimum wage initiative from coming to a vote on Election Day. The proposed measure called for raising the state's minimum wage to $8.25 an hour effective January 1, 2013, with an adjustment for inflation in future years. As of 2011, Missouri's minimum wage matched the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour. In addition, the measure would have required an increase in penalties for businesses that do not pay the minimum wage.