UCLA Labor Center

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


2022 / Brian Justie, Tia Koonse, Monica Macias, Jennifer Ray, and Saba Waheed

Fast-Food Frontline: COVID-19 and Working Conditions in Los Angeles 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 is the first in the nation to provide an in-depth portrait of COVID-19 safety compliance through the lens of fast-food workers themselves.

Fast-food is an integral part of the food sector in Los Angeles, comprising nearly 150,000 restaurant workers, the vast majority of whom are women and workers of color who have been on the frontline of enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols.

Among other findings, the report notes:

  • 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. 
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. 

The research for the report was developed in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Labor Center, UCLA Labor Occupational Health and Safety Program, and UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program. This study was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and expands on an industry analysis conducted last year on working conditions in fast-food restaurants.

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