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Mike Rowe details 'unintended consequences' from CA's $20 minimum wage: 'Bad look for the governor, Panera'

Creating political controversy over wages is a "bad look," according to Mike Rowe who warns the recent Panera debate is a step towards kiosks replacing low-wage workers.

Weighing in on the Panera minimum wage debate, "How America Works" host Mike Rowe criticized both California’s governor and the franchisee for not preparing for "unintended consequences."

"The market's a powerful thing," Rowe said on "The Big Money Show" Wednesday. "And if you're suddenly the only guy who isn't paying $20 an hour, and you're looking at a finite pool of people who want to work in the fast food industry, well, who's going to apply for a job with you?"

A major donor to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom reportedly hoped to use a loophole to avoid implementing the state’s new $20 minimum wage regulations for the fast food industry – but is now reversing course, according to the Associated Press.

Billionaire Greg Flynn, who is said to own 24 Panera Bread restaurants in California, said he will pay employees $20 per hour starting April 1, AP reported. Controversy erupted when a Bloomberg investigation found Flynn wanted to save thousands of dollars by using a legal classification that allows restaurants baking and selling bread as a standalone item to continue paying the current hourly wage of $16.


On Tuesday, Flynn said in a statement: "At Flynn Group, we are in the people business and believe our people are our most valuable assets… Our goal is to attract and retain the best team members to deliver the restaurant experience our guests know and love."

But Rowe claimed economic and social pressure meant Flynn "had to" implement the higher wage.

"It was a bad look for the governor. I think it's a bad look for Panera," Rowe said. "But mostly, again, I'll come back to unintended consequences."

"Unions are fraught with them, minimum wage is fraught with it, rent control. There's always a price to pay for doing a short-term thing that looks and feels good to do and say," the former "Dirty Jobs" star added.

The Bloomberg report noted Flynn as the largest franchisee in the U.S., owning thousands of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Wendy's, Panera Bread and Applebee's locations while being a prolific donor to Newsom’s campaigns.

State records show he gave $8,400 to Newsom's 2018 candidacy and later came to his rescue during his 2021 recall election with other big-name contributors.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Newsom told Fox News Digital, "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."

Fox News Digital also previously reached out to Flynn’s holding company and Panera Bread for comment. Flynn told Bloomberg he played no role in formulating the exemption.


The end result of the wage debate, Rowe argued, will be a shift towards no employees at all.

"Kiosks are going to replace low-wage workers. A.I. is going to have a voice in this," Rowe said.  "And a Quarter Pounder with cheese is going to be a heck of a lot more expensive. This is a lesson that we seem determined to learn over and over and over again."


FOX Business’ Brandon Gillespie and Joe Schoffstall contributed to this report.

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