UCLA Study Shows Fast Food Restaurant Workers At High Risk For COVID-19 – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentry
Fast-food restaurant workers are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 in addition to facing difficult working conditions during the pandemic, a new study from the UCLA Labor Center released today reveals.
The report provides a detailed portrait of COVID-19 safety compliance through the prism of accounts and testimonials from fast food restaurant workers. There are nearly 150,000 restaurant workers in the fast food industry in Los Angeles, according to the study. A large majority of these workers are women and people of color who have been on the front lines of implementing COVID-19 protocols.
The report finds that many fast food workers do not enjoy the workplace protections to which they are legally entitled despite being in frontline positions during the pandemic. Almost a quarter of fast food restaurant workers have contracted COVID-19 in the past 18 months, and less than half have been notified by their employees after being exposed to COVID-19.
“More than half of workers felt that employers had failed to meet their needs after speaking out, and some even faced retaliation for doing so,” said Tia Koonse, author of the report. and head of legal and policy research at the UCLA Labor Center, in a statement. declaration. “COVID-19 safety protocols like paid sick leave reduce the incidence of frontline food service workers working while they are sick, but these measures have been insufficient in this industry. Only 47% of fast food restaurant workers received paid sick leave when they or their colleagues contracted the virus. “
According to the study, labor standards violations at fast food outlets have increased and worsened during the pandemic. Almost two-thirds of workers have suffered wage theft and more than half have faced occupational health and safety risks, resulting in injuries for 43% of workers.
“Fast food workers have come forward every day of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking our lives to keep our stores open and our communities nourished,” Los Angeles McDonald’s employee Angelica Hernandez said in a statement.
“The companies we work for have called us essential, but this report shows that they believe we are disposable and have decided to keep us in unsafe and unhealthy conditions to increase business profits. But we will not remain silent – my colleagues and I will continue to fight for better working conditions and a voice at work, so that our families and communities can feel safe and prosper.
Saba Waheed, author of the report and director of research at UCLA’s Labor Center, said the study shows fast-food restaurant workers face an array of workplace challenges that extend to- beyond COVID-19.
“Half of the fast food workers we interviewed have also experienced verbal abuse, and more than a third have experienced violence such as threats, racial slurs and even assault,” Waheed said in a statement. . “And that adds up to the theft of wages, insufficient hours and other health and safety risks. The pandemic has highlighted how essential this workforce is and we need to tackle the deeper structural issues in the sector. “
The researchers note that, since fast food workers are the primary stakeholders, their expertise should guide oversight and standards in the fast food industry. The results of the study show that workers seek greater decision-making power and greater authority over their working conditions without fear of reprisal. “Fast food workers, many of whom are people of color, have served on the front lines for nearly two years of this unprecedented pandemic.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis of the First District said in a statement. “And although essential, many of these workers were treated as if they were essential. Ensuring worker protection is essential to ensure that our most vulnerable and under-represented members of the community are safe and healthy.
With another wave of COVID-19 starting in Los Angeles County, attributed to the Omicron variant, this report is of the utmost importance. As the Supervisor of the First District, I remain fully committed to making the voices heard of those who are often overlooked – the safety of our communities depends on it. “
The report is based on 417 surveys and 15 worker interviews, and expands on industry analysis conducted earlier this year on working conditions in fast food restaurants.
The research for the report, “Fast-Food Frontline: COVID-19 and Working Conditions in Los Angeles,” was developed in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Labor Center, UCLA’s Occupational Health and Safety Program, and the UC Berkeley’s occupational health program. The study was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.