In the immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the insufficient federal response, the State of California and the UC system have been praised for strong leadership, and clear messaging on early prevention. The cultural, political and economic transformations that result from and are demanded by the COVID-19 crisis in California, however, are just beginning to unfold. The impacts of even the best policies often reinforce persistent socio-economic inequities. It remains unknown how the emergent crisis, and the policy responses to it, will impact California’s essential workers, a population—designated by the Governor through Executive Order—with new significance since the dawn of the pandemic. Important to issues of diversity and inclusion, we do not know how those most impacted by the crisis, who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color, might inform the future legislative and policy responses that leaders will develop at the federal, state, and local levels to manage the crisis. Grounded in the community-based research (CBR) principle that social problems demand the knowledge of those who experience them, the researchers will document the stories of essential workers in California who are most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.