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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fast-Food Frontline: COVID-19 and Working Conditions in Los Angeles 

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The fast-food sector is an integral part of the food sector in Los Angeles, employing 150,000 Angelenos in 2019 and comprising over a third of Los Angeles’s restaurant workers. Fast-Food Frontline: COVID-19 and Working Conditions in Los Angeles is based on 417 surveys and fifteen in-depth interviews with non-managerial fast-food workers in Los Angeles County conducted between June and October 2021. The study finds that fast-food workers in Los Angeles County are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, in addition to facing difficult work conditions that became more acute during the pandemic. The report provides an in-depth portrait of COVID-19 safety compliance through the lens of fast-food workers themselves, the vast majority of whom are women and workers of color. Among other findings, the report finds that nearly a quarter of fast-food workers contracted COVID-19 in the last eighteen months, and less than half were notified by their employers after they had been exposed to COVID-19. Further, almost two-thirds of workers have experienced wage theft, and well over half have faced health and safety hazards on the job, amounting to injuries for 43% of workers. Researchers emphasize the urgency of implementing public policy solutions that are tailored to fast-food workers’ needs and strengthen fast-food workers’ voice in their industry. 

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