A new analysis by Economic Roundtable reveals that thousands of fast-food workers in Los Angeles County are experiencing homelessness. This is a significant issue as workers in the fast-food industry make up 9% of all workers in Los Angeles County and 11% of all homeless workers in California.
The study, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, found 3,595 homeless fast-food workers in Los Angeles County and 10,120 statewide. Researchers measured various factors against Census data about restaurant workers not living in standard housing.
Fast Food Wages and Living Costs
Fast food wages have increased over the years, but it remains to be seen whether it is still enough to keep up with the high cost of living and rising inflation. Currently, the hourly minimum wage is $15.50 across California for all workers, with workers employed within Los Angeles receiving at least $16.04 per hour.
According to the study, frontline fast-food workers such as cooks and cashiers earned a median income of $14,949 in 2020, most working part-time and receiving 26 hours per week on average. Researchers found that 25% of frontline fast food workers in Los Angeles spend more than half their income on rent, making it difficult to afford housing. Additionally, 43% of these workers live in overcrowded housing, defined as households with more than one person per room.
The Impact of AB 257
Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 257 into law, which gives more than half a million fast-food workers more power and protections. This landmark law creates a 10-member Fast Food Council with equal numbers of workers' delegates and employers' representatives, along with two state officials, empowered to set minimum standards for wages, hours, and working conditions in California.
However, the law is on pause due to a Nov. 2024 ballot measure allowing voters to reject it.
The findings of the study by Economic Roundtable demonstrate the significant issue of homelessness among fast food workers in Los Angeles County and statewide. While measures such as AB 257 provide more power and protections for these workers, there is still a long way to go to ensure that all workers can afford basic needs such as housing. As such, policymakers and businesses need to work together to address the underlying issues and improve California's fast-food workers' lives.