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Behind the Kitchen Door: Inequality & Opportunity in Los Angeles, the Nation’s Largest Restaurant Industry

In 2011, ROC-LA released Behind the Kitchen Door: Inequality & Opportunity in Los Angeles, the Nation’s Largest Restaurant Industry, the most comprehensive study of the Los Angeles restaurant industry ever conducted. The research included 502 surveys of Los Angeles restaurant workers, 30 worker interviews, 33 employer interviews, and government data analysis.  The findings illustrated the great need for reform that can achieve a sustainable industry in which workers, employers, and diners prosper together.


  • The median wage among Los Angeles restaurant workers is $9.24 per hour. However, there are some livable wage jobs in the Los Angeles restaurant industry – 18% of workers reported earning livable wages.
  • 44.1% of workers have experienced overtime violations.
  • 89.4% of restaurant workers do not receive paid sick days.
  • White workers disproportionately hold the higher-paying restaurant jobs in LA.  This inequality is exacerbated by the fact that lower-paying jobs with fewer benefits are more heavily concentrated in communities with a large number of workers of color and inadequate bus service makes traveling to other parts of the city with higher-paying jobs much more difficult.
  • Immigrant workers had a much lower median wage than U.S.-born workers.  Immigrant workers make a median wage of $12.91 per hour, while immigrant workers have a median wage of only $9.50 per hour.
  • These challenges have consequences for consumers. Our report found thatit was the same restaurant employers who violated employment laws who also forced their employees to do something that put the consumers’ health and safety at risk.  Workers that experienced an employment law violation were 57% more likely than workers who experienced no employment law violations to be forced to do something under time pressure that put the consumers’ safety at risk.
Download full report here


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