Los Angeles – Poor working conditions in fast food restaurants – as well as failure of workers and customers to adhere to physical distancing protocols and wearing masks – could put fast food employees in Los Angeles at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a recent released report from the University of California, Los Angeles and UC Berkeley.
Researchers analyzed demographic and government data, surveys, and media reports. They found that a third of fast food restaurants in the city employed at least 20 people, “suggesting shared appliances, work spaces, bathrooms, and rest areas,” says the report.
In addition, the report highlights numerous surveys showing that service jobs, including fast food, are “highly vulnerable” to the transmission of COVID-19. One survey, from the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, found that 84% of fast food employees work within 6 feet of someone who is not wearing a mask, while 44% said at least one colleague has contracted the virus.
- 54% of food service workers interact with at least 10 unmasked people in one shift.
- 37% reported their workplaces did not have mandatory training on COVID-19 safety protocols.
- 58% of workers are reluctant to enforce the COVID-19 safety protocol.
The household environment of fast food workers can also exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, the researchers found, because workers tend to inhabit multigenerational homes. More than two-thirds of workers live in a household with four or more people, and one-third live in a household with someone over 55 years of age.
“It’s important to remember that COVID-19 transmission from fast food workplaces can then impact households and surrounding communities,” co-author Tia Koonse, manager of legal and policy research at the UCLA Labor Center, said in a press release. “The majority of fast food workers live near their place of work and are more likely to use public transportation.
“Most live with four or more people, which makes social distancing difficult or impossible, and about a third live with people over 55. This means workplace outbreaks increase the risk of community spread in densely populated working-class areas of Los Angeles. “