Facing 60% Unemployment, Restaurant Workers Struggled During Pandemic

A restaurant worker in Atlanta, Ga. in 2013

Tom Driggers/CC BY 2.0

A restaurant worker in Atlanta, Ga. in 2013

The pandemic and related precautions affected millions of restaurant workers around the country — unemployment in the restaurant industry shot up to more than 40% nationwide in April 2020, and to 60% in the Bay Area according to the State of Restaurant Workers report from the advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. Six of the nation’s 10 lowest-paid jobs are in the restaurant industry, according to the organization, and more than 16% of U.S. restaurant workers live in poverty. Zoe Caras, national research associate for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, explains what the report found in the Bay Area and what the numbers meant for workers.

“It’s devastating. And it means people have to figure out how to get services from the government, like food stamps. People have to figure out how to meet their basic needs, without warning. And otherwise, people who still did remain employed or were able to find other jobs were put into really, really challenging situations where they were potentially risking their lives to do a job that of course has many health and safety issues, but risking your life wasn’t part of the job when people signed up for it.”

— Zoe Caras

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