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Questions swirl whether Panera is exempt from $20 minimum wage law

via NBC
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A major donor to California Governor Gavin Newsom owns Panera Bread franchises that are expected to benefit from a carve-out in the state’s new $20 minimum wage law for fast food workers.

The law allows restaurants that bake and sell bread onsite to pay employees $16 per hour rather than $20.

However, Newsom claims that Panera Bread is not exempt from the state’s new minimum wage law.

As the largest U.S. franchisee of Panera Bread, billionaire Greg Flynn could save hundreds of thousands annually across his two dozen California locations.

The Hill reported, “To be exempt from the minimum wage law under the bakery exemption, restaurants must produce bread on-site. Newsom’s office said chain bakeries such as Panera mix dough at an off-site location and ship it to the restaurant to be baked.”

Flynn had previously opposed the wage law and lobbied Newsom’s office to exclude Panera Bread.

While negotiations led to compromise on the final regulations, Flynn has been a prolific donor to Newsom’s political campaigns, giving over $100,000 to his recall effort in 2021.

Though a Newsom spokesperson stated the legislation resulted from broad stakeholder input, the report indicates Flynn’s political influence and financial interests may have shaped the key exemption in California’s new minimum wage law.

The spokesperson for Newsom said, “This legislation was the result of countless hours of negotiations with dozens of stakeholders over two years. The Governor’s office met with labor unions, business leaders and dozens of franchise owners through the course of negotiations. No one person or company held sway over the final outcome.”

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