A group of fast-food union workers
Fast-food workers celebrating their recently formed union, the California Fast Food Workers Union. Photo courtesy of California Fast Food Workers Union.

Step Forward Foundation and the California Fast Food Workers Union, SEIU have released a report that includes the findings of a first of its kind survey conducted last July and August with 300 workers at 213 fast-food restaurants owned by 32 different brands in 83 cities across California.

The eye-popping findings revealed that 88% of workers surveyed were unable to correctly answer a majority of questions about basic workplace rights, including paid sick leave, hours of work, overtime pay, meal periods and rest breaks. And 93% of workers surveyed had not heard about or did not know how to access most key benefits and programs that they or their families may be entitled to. Workers were asked whether they knew about and knew how to access paid sick leave, paid family leave, the California Family Rights Act, state disability insurance, and workers’ compensation.

According to the survey, fast-food workers report that management provides them with incorrect or no information across virtually all categories of rights, including health and safety, wage and hour, child labor protections and essential benefits. Under the law, employers are required to inform workers about their rights.

The report recommends that “know your rights” training by independent third parties is needed to ensure fast-food workers are informed of their rights and that Step Forward Foundation provides a model of effective training for low-wage workers, including fast-food workers.

Effective training must be interactive and must engage workers in discussions of real-life scenarios they may face. Training must also be comprehensive and cover topics including the application processes for essential programs and benefits and the processes for filing claims with relevant state agencies. Training should also connect workers with resources, such as legal advice lines and local legal aid organizations. Finally, effective training must include ample time for workers to ask questions.

At a news conference on March 7, Councilmember Peter Ortiz urged the San Jose City Council to pass an ordinance that requires mandatory training for fast-food workers and more paid sick leave.

Fast-food workers deserve to know their rights. Urge your city councilmember to support requiring mandatory training and more paid sick leave for fast-food workers.

San José Spotlight columnist Ruth Silver Taube is supervising attorney of the Workers’ Rights Clinic at the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, supervising attorney of the Santa Clara County’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement Legal Advice Line and a member of Santa Clara County’s Fair Workplace Collaborative. Her columns appear every second Thursday of the month. Contact her at [email protected].

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