GOP raps Gavin Newsom as sister’s cafe seeks $16-an-hour busser while fast-food eateries must pay $20

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As California’s $20 minimum wage kicked in for fast-food franchise workers this week giving them a 25% pay boost, the state’s Republicans pointed Tuesday to an ad for a $16-an-hour busser from a Lake Tahoe area cafe Gov. Gavin Newsom founded that’s part of a hospitality group now run by his sister.

PlumpJack Cafe in the Lake Tahoe community of Olympic Valley, which posted the job ad last month for the restaurant and bar that opened in 1995, wouldn’t be subject to the state’s $20 fast-food minimum wage, which took effect April 1 for some 3,000 franchise restaurants belonging to chains with 60 or more locations nationally. But the Democratic governor’s Republican critics said it’s another example of the governor avoiding rules he imposes on others.

“I wonder why Gavin Newsom’s food businesses don’t pay $20/hour?” Assemblyman Joe Patterson, a Rocklin Republican, posted Tuesday on X. “It’s very, very expensive to live there… but he doesn’t do as he tells others and doesn’t pay a living wage.”

The governor’s press office deferred comment to his personal spokesman, who noted the governor put PlumpJack Group, which Newsom founded as a San Francisco wine shop in 1992 and expanded into a hospitality portfolio, into a blind trust after he was elected governor in 2018.

“He has no role in any of the holdings held by the blind trust,” Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said.

But the trust has been run by a lawyer and accountant who’s a family friend, and Newsom’s sister Hilary is co-president of PlumpJack Group. PlumpJack Group did not respond to a request for comment.

The $20 fast-food minimum wage grew out of an ongoing labor dispute between state leaders and their organized labor allies and the restaurant industry. The state passed the FAST Recovery Act in 2022 that would establish a fast-food council empowered to raise minimum wages even higher and included provisions that could hold companies liable for labor violations by their franchisees.

Fast-food companies sought to put a referendum on the ballot this November to repeal that law, but pulled it last fall after reaching a compromise with a new bill, AB 1228. That bill eliminated the liability for franchise labor violations and allowed for a minimum wage increase to $20.

But controversy didn’t end there. The compromise law included a holdover provision from the original with an odd exemption for eateries that bake bread on site. Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, reported in February that Newsom had pushed for exemption to benefit campaign donor Greg Flynn, whose company owns two dozen Panera Bread restaurants.

Newsom and Flynn denied seeking the exemption. The governor’s office said Panera probably wasn’t exempt from the law and Flynn said his restaurants would abide by its $20 wage floor.

It isn’t the first time critics have called out the two-term governor for violating the spirit of rules he’s approved for the state. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic while his administration was discouraging indoor dining to reduce spread of the potentially deadly respiratory virus, Newsom was seen dining with a dozen others at Napa’s elegant French Laundry.

Critics of Newsom’s lockdown policies, which dealt an economic blow to many businesses and their workers, pounced, and the governor apologized in a statement that “while our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner.”

The indiscretion didn’t hurt Newsom politically — he handily defeated a 2021 recall vote and was re-elected overwhelmingly the following year.

But the state’s minority Republicans continue to call him out for what they call a “rules for thee but not for me” mentality, where a $20 wage minimum wage Newsom signed applies to a franchise selling $6.29 Big Macs but not a cafe selling a $28 wagyu angus burger on a Truckee sourdough brioche bun.

“Governor Gavin Newsom has praised the new law repeatedly,” the California Republican Party said in a statement. “Governor, why aren’t you practicing what you preach?”

 



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