Lessons From the Pandemic on How to Protect and Support Essential Workers

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Young Fresno mom Guadalupe Beltran got a job and got off welfare, but 5 years later she's still not making enough to get by without food stamps. (Vanessa Rancano/KQED)

Low-wage frontline workers have kept Californians fed and vulnerable populations cared for since the start of the pandemic.  And they’ve borne a high cost for their work.  A recent study out of UC Merced finds a 30% increase in deaths for essential workers in 2020.  We’ll hear about people working in restaurants, grocery stores, home care and other industries who feared losing income -- or their jobs --if they took time off to recover from COVID-19. And as the state moves toward a full reopening next month, we’ll look at lessons learned during the pandemic  on how we can  better  protect and support low-wage frontline workers. 


Susan Dovi, staff attorney, California Department of Labor

Alejandra Domenzain, coordinator of public programs, Labor Occupational Health Program, UC Berkeley

Stanley Edwards, essential worker in a San Francisco homeless shelter

John Kabateck, state director, National Federation of Independent Business