Like The Herald Business Journal on Facebook!
The Herald of Everett, Washington
Heraldnet.com

The top local business stories in your email

Contact Us:

Josh O'Connor
Publisher
Phone: 425-339-3007
joconnor@heraldnet.com

Jody Knoblich
General Sales Manager
Phone: 425-339-3445
Fax: 425-339-3049
jknoblich@heraldnet.com

Jim Davis
Editor
Phone: 425-339-3097
jdavis@heraldnet.com

Site address:
1800 41st Street, S-300,
Everett, WA 98203

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 930
Everett, WA 98206

HBJ RSS feeds

More than half of fast-food workers on public aid, report says

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS
By Alana Semuels
Los Angeles Times
Published:
More than half of fast-food workers' families receive some sort of public assistance, costing the nation $7 billion a year, according to a new report distributed by a group that has been pushing for union representation and higher wages for fast-food workers.
Fast-food workers earn an average of $8.69 an hour, and often work fewer than 40 hours a week, qualifying them for food stamps, Medicaid and tax credits, according to the report, which was written by economists at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Even before it was released publicly, the report raised the ire of some conservative groups that said it used faulty methodology to prove a point.
"In its quest to unionize the fast-food industry, the (Service Employees International Union) has demonstrated that it will leave no stone unturned - including using 'research' and arguments that would get a higher grade in creative writing than in a high school economics class," said Michael Saltsman, research director at conservative think tank Employment Policies Institute, in a statement.
The report calculates that about $3.9 billion a year is spent on Medicaid and children's health care for fast-food workers and their families. Families also receive $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion from the federal government through the earned income tax credit. Even those workers who are on a 40-hour-a-week schedule receive benefits; more than half of those families are enrolled in public assistance programs, the report says.
Workers in the restaurant and food services industry far surpass workers in other industries for dependence on public assistance. About 44 percent of workers in the restaurant and food services sector have a family member enrolled in a public assistance program, compared to 35 percent for agriculture, forestry and fisheries and 30 percent in the retail trade.
The report has implications for national policies as Congress debates a farm bill that would cut back on food stamps, and as Republicans look to winnow down costs by scaling back other public assistance programs.
Public assistance programs "could be more effective if supplemented by measures that improve workers' wages and benefits," the report concludes.
The Employment Policies Institute counters that raising the minimum wage would hurt fast-food workers because restaurants would replace workers with automated alternatives. It also adds that while the earned income tax credit may be costing the government money, it has proven effective at reducing poverty.
A separate report, also out Tuesday, by the National Employment Law Project, calculates how much each restaurant's employees are costing the federal government because they receive public assistance to supplement their wages.
McDonald's, which has 707,850 employees, costs $1.2 billion, the report said; Yum! Brands, which includes Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, and employs 379,449, costs $648 million.
McDonald's CEO Donald Thompson received about $14 million in total compensation in 2012, the report points out.
Fast-food workers have been holding one-day walkouts and strikes for more than a year to call attention to their wages. They want $15 an hour and union representation; the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. In their last day of protest, in August, workers in around 50 cities walked off the job.
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to raise California's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. Voters in the small town of SeaTac, in Washington State, will soon vote whether to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.

MORE HBJ HEADLINES

CALENDAR

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus

Market roundup