Jai Coward | AB 1228 Threatens Businesses

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

We are living our dream of becoming local small business owners as we prepare to open a new franchise of the Dog Haus restaurant near our Santa Clarita home by year’s end. 

Unfortunately, just as we are putting the final touches on our long-sought neighborhood establishment, politicians in Sacramento are threatening to turn the experience into a nightmare. 

Assembly Bill 1228, an unnecessary bill, is being considered by lawmakers in Sacramento. The bill would force national fast-food corporations to exert significantly more control over local franchised restaurants like mine by making them legally liable for local employment decisions. 

As a result, AB 1228 would essentially turn locally owned and operated restaurants into corporate-run restaurants – stripping local restaurant owners like us of our authority as small business owners. 

It is contrary to everything we envision for our Dog Haus, which we plan to run as a neighborhood gathering place, a fixture in the community and a sponsor of local events. Santa Clarita is our home – a place we are invested in seeing thrive and flourish. 

We intend to make our restaurant a family business and, because we don’t have kids yet, we look forward to involving our nieces and nephews in day-to-day operations and hopefully helping them to become a pivotal part of the business. 

As a couple, we have unique skills and strong business backgrounds that we think make us excellent local franchised restaurant owners. Diversity and inclusion are paramount to us as we hire local employees and give back to the community. 

And, most importantly, we will manage these employees as though they are family – in a dignified, respectful way. 

Current law allows franchise owners to maintain control over operations including hiring, wages, scheduling, benefits and workplace standards. That’s how it should be. 

But if AB 1228 passes, many of those decisions would be taken away from us. Instead, our restaurant would go from a locally run small business into corporate-run with us being essentially downgraded to middle managers working for the corporation. We don’t want that.  

AB 1228 will also add costs to running our business that we had not anticipated due to new bureaucracy. Worse, the bill will open an entirely new avenue to file frivolous lawsuits against business owners. Trial lawyers will surely see it as a way to line their pockets. More meritless lawsuits will pile more costs on small business owners. 

These higher costs will mean we’ll inevitably be forced to pass those along to consumers in the form of higher food prices. For us, this is a terrible way to introduce ourselves and our restaurant to the neighborhood. 

Some restaurants will be forced to close their doors altogether, which would eliminate badly needed local jobs. Nearly eight in 10 fast food workers are women and people of color, meaning AB 1228 would disproportionately and unfairly impact the disadvantaged and communities of color. 

California already has some of the strongest labor laws in the nation to protect our workers, and multiple state agencies charged with enforcement. Rather than pass a new, unnecessary, costly law that harms small business owners, we should increase funding for the already-existing state agencies. 

Becoming a franchisee is a unique and wonderful way to become a small business owner and to contribute to the local community. California does not need a new law that shifts power away from us and opportunity away from our neighborhoods. 

We urge a no vote on AB 1228. 

Jai Coward

Santa Clarita

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