California Panera franchisee will raise minimum wage to $20 after political firestorm over minimum wage carveout

California Panera franchisee will raise minimum wage to $20 after political firestorm over minimum wage carveout - Business and Finance - News

California Panera Bread Franchise Owner to Raise Minimum Wage for Employees Amidst Controversy

Amidst growing controversy and accusations of political influence, a California-based Panera Bread franchise owner has announced that he will be raising the minimum wage for all his employees to $20 per hour. This decision comes in response to a new state minimum wage law that exempts certain businesses, including those that produce and sell bread as a standalone menu item. The controversy revolves around the relationship between franchise owner Greg Flynn and Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Controversial Minimum Wage Law Exemption

As of April 1, 2023, the new minimum wage law in California raises the minimum hourly wage for all fast food workers from $16 to $20. However, a controversial carve-out in the law exempts businesses that produce and sell bread as a standalone menu item from this wage hike. Critics argue that this exception benefits Greg Flynn, a billionaire Panera franchise owner who attended high school with Gavin Newsom and has donated to the governor’s campaigns in the past.

Flynn’s Decision to Raise Minimum Wage

Despite the controversy surrounding this exemption, Flynn has stated that he never asked for special considerations or an exemption. He made this announcement on Tuesday, stating that all of his Panera Bread locations in California will raise the minimum pre-tip wage to $20 per hour. Flynn believes that his people are his most valuable assets and wants to attract and retain the best team members to deliver a top-notch restaurant experience for his guests.

Flynn’s Previous Donations and Interactions with Newsom

California public records show that Flynn, whose company, The Flynn Group, operates 24 Panera locations in California, has donated several times to Newsom’s re-election campaign and contributed $100,000 during the conservative effort to recall the governor in 2021. However, Flynn insists that he never personally met with Newsom about the minimum wage bill, although he did meet with Newsom’s staff and a group of other restaurant owners to discuss it.

The Future of Minimum Wage for Panera in California

Despite Flynn’s decision to raise the minimum wage for his employees, a spokesperson for Newsom has dismissed rumors of Flynn’s influence over the fast food minimum wage bill and believes that the bakery would likely have been compelled to raise wages under the law anyway. Alex Stack, a spokesperson for Newsom, clarified that many chain bakeries, such as Panera Bread, mix dough at centralized off-site locations and then ship it to their retail locations for baking and sale. This means that the bread is not technically “produced” on site, which could potentially impact Flynn’s exemption.