Food for Cities October, 2013

Low fast-food wages come at high cost to US taxpayers, says report

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois found that 52% of US fast food workers earn so little they are forced to rely on at least one type of public assistance programme. On 15th October, 2013 in California published two reports also expressed that the fast-food industry's business model of low wages and low employee benefits is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars a year in public assistance programmes. Compared to the average American worker, "non-managerial" fast food employees like cooks, servers and cashiers are twice as likely to need public assistance, the researchers found. Overall, according to the study, an average of $7bn of taxpayer money was spent on assistance for fast-food workers each year between 2007 and 2011. Ken Jacobs, the chairman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center and author of one of the reports, said he and his colleagues found that only 13% of fast-food workers – who earn an overall median wage of $8.69 an hour – receive benefits like health insurance from their employers. The need for public assistance programmes is "the rule rather than the exception", Jacobs said, even for those working more than 40 hours per week. The studies come in the wake of strikes and walkouts organized by fast-food employees in 60 US towns and cities in the summer, part of a small but growing movement among service and retail workers to call for higher wages and the ability to unionize without harassment by employers. Scott DeFife, the association's executive vice-president for policy and government affairs stated that America's restaurant industry provides opportunities for millions of Americans, women and men from all backgrounds, to move up the ladder and succeed.

Reference: The Guardian