Homelessness crisis among LA County fast food workers revealed in new study

Nearly 3,600 fast food workers in LA County are homeless, according to a study.

A new study has revealed a dire homelessness crisis among fast food workers in Los Angeles County. The study, conducted by the Economic Roundtable, found that fast food workers make up 9% of the county’s workforce but 11% of all homeless workers in California. That equates to 3,595 homeless fast food workers in LA County and 10,120 statewide.

The study analyzed data from the US Census Bureau and measured a series of factors against census data about restaurant workers who are not living in standard housing. While fast food wages have increased over the years, the cost of living and rising inflation may make it difficult for workers to make ends meet.

California’s hourly minimum wage is currently $15.50 for all workers. However, in Los Angeles, workers must receive at least $16.04 per hour. The study further found that frontline fast food workers such as cooks and cashiers earned a median income of $14,949 in 2020. Most of them were working part-time, receiving 26 hours per week on average.

In Los Angeles, 25% of frontline fast food workers are spending more than half their income on rent, and 43% are living in overcrowded housing, defined as households with more than one person per room.

Last year, California’s governor signed AB 257 into law, which gives fast food workers more power and protections. The 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 that gives voters the option to reject it.