Allegations of underhanded tactics in this fast-food industry battle

A car with signs that say "Fight for 15" drives past a McDonald's restaurant.
A California law signed by the governor this year creates a council with a mandate to set workplace standards governing wages and other conditions across the state’s fast-food industry.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Nov. 4. I’m Suhauna Hussain, a reporter on the L.A. Times business desk. I write about issues affecting workers.

I’ve been closely following the expensive battle over new California law Assembly Bill 257, known as the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act. The law seeks to boost protections for workers at large chain restaurants and could raise their minimum wage as high as $22 next year.

It’s a pretty big deal. The law, signed by Gov. Newsom earlier this year, creates a first-of-its-kind council with authority to set workplace standards governing wages, working hours and other conditions across the state’s fast-food industry. The model could transform the way workers negotiate conditions with their employers not just in California but also across the U.S.


Currently there is a massive push underway by a fast-food industry coalition — which deems AB 257 an existential threat to restaurant businesses — to block the law until the issue can be put before voters. The coalition is in the process of collecting enough signatures by the Dec. 4 deadline to get the referendum on the November 2024 ballot.

But the coalition faces allegations from a big California labor union that it is making false claims to voters to persuade them to sign its circulating petition.

Since I published a story on the union’s allegations last week, a couple of people have reached out to tell us they feel they were duped by petition-gatherers, that folks peddling the petition falsely told them it was for a measure that would raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers.

It’s hard to know whether these incidents are one-offs or if the issue is more widespread in the campaign to undo AB 257. I’m hoping you, reader, can help me figure this out.

If you have been approached by someone seeking your signature on a fast-food-related petition in California in recent weeks, I want to hear about your experience — what you were told the petition was for and whether you signed.

You can reach me by sending an email to


Read more here about AB 257, what the law would do, the arguments for and against it, and the coalition backing the referendum to overturn it.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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An Orange County Transportation Authority bus in Newport Beach in February.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A man looks at a wall of posters.
Abelardo de la Peña Jr. looks at a collection of posters showing missing people.
(James Carbone / For The Times)

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Today’s California memory is from Robert A. Benowitz:

I remember it well. My family, consisting of my wife, two daughters and a son, were fast asleep in our condo in Newport Beach. I was awakened by a chattering noise that seemed to be coming from the roof. I soon realized the red terracotta roof tiles were vibrating against one another, making a sound much like castanets. The second indicator that something was awry was the shower curtain rhythmically swaying back and forth. A few moments later the sound and movement stopped, but the story of the 1994 Northridge quake and the havoc it brought was just beginning.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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