May 17, 2023 | The Press Democrat

Close to Home: Fast food bill could harm local business owners

California lawmakers are considering legislation that would take away my rights and independence as a restaurant owner.

Five decades ago, the odds of becoming a small business owner were not in my favor. My family left Cuba when I was young and moved to the United States.

I always wanted to run my own business, but as a young, Latina immigrant, I didn’t have much money saved. When I wasn’t crunching numbers in a cubicle, I was washing dishes to earn extra money for my family. But through opportunity provided by the franchise restaurant model, I became the owner of a local McDonald’s restaurant.

Now, after 50 years of operating a small business, California lawmakers are considering legislation that would take away my rights and independence as a restaurant owner.

AB 1228 would make national fast-food corporations legally liable for local employment decisions in local franchised restaurants, forcing them to exert more control over small business owners like me.

This unnecessary legislation will create new bureaucracy and a slew of frivolous lawsuits, resulting in higher operating costs for local restaurants, higher food costs for consumers and even forcing some locally run restaurants to shut down.

I am certain that jobs will be lost.

Many franchise restaurants are owned by those who come from minority communities, including women of color. Franchising provided a path to business ownership in a society and economy where that is often unavailable to us. As a result, AB 1228 will disproportionately harm us.

Operating a franchised business is like opening any other small business. We must hire the right employees, ensure our staff is properly trained, run the books, file taxes, keep the restaurant clean, ride the ebb and flow of the local economy and earn the trust of our customers.

We have established ourselves as important parts of our communities. We want to continue to run our local restaurants without undue interference from the national corporations.

That is why attacks on franchising, like AB 1228, are so misguided. Franchise owners are independent, small business owners who love our communities and care about our workers.

California workers already are covered by stringent state labor laws and state agencies are in place to enforce them. Rather than pass an unnecessary new law, California should increase funding for stronger enforcement and accountability from the state agencies that already exist.

The opportunities of the franchise model should be celebrated, not punished. I urge lawmakers to reject AB 1228.

Dania Fagundo owns and operates McDonald’s franchised restaurants in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Sonoma. She lives in San Jose.