How unions won a 30% raise for every fast food worker in California

Hot labor summer was just for openers.

Cory Doctorow
16 min readSep 14, 2023


A McDonald’s restaurant; on its lawn is a guillotine whose blade bears the Golden Arches; along with the bear that appears on the California state flag.

Tonight (September 14), I’m hosting the EFF Awards in San Francisco. On September 22, I’ll be livestreaming into the DIG Festival in Modena, Italy.

Anything that can’t go on forever will eventually stop. 40 years of declining worker power shattered the American Dream (TM), producing multiple generations whose children fared worse than their parents, cratering faith in institutions and hope for a better future.

The American neoliberal malaise — celebrated in by “centrists” who insisted that everything was fine and nothing could be changed — didn’t just lead to a sense of helplessness, but also hopelessness. Denialism and nihilism are Siamese twins, and the YOLO approach to the climate emergency, covid mitigation, the housing crisis and other pressing issues can’t be disentangled from the Thatcherite maxim that “There is NoA lternative.” If there’s no alternative, then we’re doomed. Dig a hole, climb inside, pull the dirt down on top of yourself.

But anything that can’t go on forever will eventually stop. For decades, leftists have taken a back seat to liberals in the progressive coalition, allowing “unionize!” to be drowned out by “learn to code!” The liberal-led coalition ceded the mantle of…