LA County fast food workers were seldom or sometimes made aware of workplace COVID exposures, UCLA Labor Center study finds

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – New study highlights the disproportionate damage suffered by fast food workers in Los Angeles County during the pandemic, and it shows many have not had access to the equipment they need to stay safe.

Starting Monday, Jan. 17, employees across the county who work indoors alongside others will be required to wear medical-grade masks, according to a new county health order. Employers will be required to provide the masks and employees will be required to wear them.

The UCLA Labor Center interviewed more than 400 fast food workers in LA County between June and October 2021. It found that nearly one in four workers in LA County had contracted the virus and that employers rarely or sometimes informed workers of COVID-19 exposures in the workplace.

“This can no longer be normalized,” said Manuel Villanueva, regional manager for the West of Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) United, a national non-profit organization that works to improve wages and working conditions. restaurant workers and a community partner who contributed to the study. “People’s lives are in danger, and right now we are facing a lot more problems than ever before. “

Most fast food workers in Los Angeles are women and people of color – mostly Latinos – and sick leave is not a reality for many of these workers.

According to the study, most employers provided masks and gloves to their workers, but about half of workers said it was not enough or that the equipment was “provided infrequently”.

“We’ve heard a lot of stories of blatant workplace exposure violations and then, you know, managers categorically denying it,” said Saba Waheed, research director for the UCLA Labor Center. “Less than half got the sick leave that was actually needed and that there was actually an increase in sick leave benefits during that time. “

Villanueva said ROC United conducts outreach missions to help workers and businesses better understand safety guidelines.

“Other people have told us that they will give two masks a week and then the rest they will have to buy for around $ 1,” Villanueva said. “We give them sort of like the guide to what they should have and what to look for, specific websites that are easy and multilingual.”

Among other recommendations, the report urges that protocols be enforced and that employees be protected from retaliation.

“There is a big wave of violence among customers and restaurant workers, and I cannot stress it enough, we have to be kind to each other,” Villanueva said. “Restaurant workers, they just want to feed you, and they want to support and keep their families safe. So let’s be nice to each other.

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