WASHINGTON – Taxpayers are spending nearly $7 billion a year to supplement the wages of fast-food workers, even as the leading fast-food companies earn billions of dollars in annual profits, according to a pair of reports released last week.
More than half of the nations 1.8 million core fast-food workers rely on the federal safety net to make ends meet, the reports said. Together, they collect nearly $1.9 billion through the earned income tax credit, $1 billion in food stamps and $3.9 billion through Medicaid and the Childrens Health Insurance Program, according to a report by economists at the University of California at Berkeleys Labor Center and the University of Illinois.
Overall, the core fast-food workers are twice as likely to rely on public assistance than workers in other fields, said one of the reports, which examined nonmanagerial fast-food employees who work at least 11 hours a week and 27 weeks a year.
These statistics paint a picture of workers not being able to get their fair share of the largest, richest economy in the world, said Sylvia Allegretto, lead author of the report by the university economists. It is a good thing that we have these work supports, but they should be a last resort.
Those workers are left to rely on the public safety net even though the nations seven largest publicly traded fast-food companies netted a combined $7.4 billion in profits last year, while paying out $53 million in salaries to their top executives and distributing $7.7 billion to shareholders, according to a second report by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group.
The reports lend academic support to the growing activism among fast-food workers and other low-wage workers, who for the past several months have been calling a series of small but growing one-day strikes.
The workers are demanding raises to $15 an hour.