The $7 Billion Value Meal
Study shows majority of low pay workers on public assistance
By Stan Washington | 10/17/2013, 5:51 p.m.
McCoy is also encouraging her fellow restaurant workers to join the movement. “I joined the movement when it first started and I still have my job (Church’s Chicken),” she said. “It’s nothing wrong with standing up and speaking out.”
The study’s also reports the fast food industry’s low wages and meager benefits, often accompanied by part-time hours, combine to create substantial public-assistance needs, including:
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, $3.9 billion per year
Earned Income Tax Credit payments, $1.95 billion per year
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, $1.04 billion per year
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $82 million per year
“This is the public cost of low-wage jobs in America,” said UC Berkeley economist Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of the Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics. “The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and public spending.”
Families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in public programs at more than twice the rate of the overall workforce, researchers found.
The report was funded by Fast Food Forward, a coalition of workers and labor, religious and community groups campaigning for higher wages and rights on the job for New York City fast-food workers.
Companies using contract or part-time workers has become the norm since the Great Recession. The report also indicates that just 28 percent of core front-line fast-food workers regularly work 40 or more hours per week, compared to 75 percent of the country’s workforce as a whole.
The study also dispels a common belief that most fast food workers are untrained teenagers.
“More than two-thirds of core frontline fast-food workers across the country are over the age of 20, and 68 percent are the main wage earners in their families,” wrote Marc Doussard, one of the coauthors and an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “And more than a quarter of Americans working in fast-food restaurants are parents, raising at least one child.”
Other industries whose workers use public assistance heavily are: agriculture, forestry and fisheries; other services; other leisure and hospitality, retail trade, construction, health and social services, transportation and utilities, manufacturing, professional and business services, wholesale trade, mining, educational services, information, financial activities and public administration.
“Our economy is stronger when consumers have more money in their pockets and don’t have to rely on help from the government. If fast food companies pay their workers enough to feed their kids, they’ll spend that money on meals here in Atlanta,” said Rev. Gregory Williams. “ If they pay them enough to buy clothes for their kids, they’ll spend that money at businesses in Atlanta”
To read the full report go to:
National Employment Law Project report: