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Low fast-food wages supplemented by billions in govt welfare – report

fast-food-wages-supplemented-welfare-_siOver half of US workers employed by fast food restaurants rely on public assistance because their meager paychecks do not cover basic needs. The aid costs American taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to a new report.

The average American fast food worker earns $8.69 an hour and  regularly works less than 40 hours a week, qualifying them for a  variety of government benefits. Fifty-two percent of families  that include a fast food worker receive food stamps, Medicaid, or  are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary  Assistance for Needy Families. Compare that sum with the 25  percent of families eligible for those assistance programs from  the overall workforce.

Researchers determined that “non-managerial” employees –   such as cashiers, cooks, servers, and others – are twice as  likely to need financial help. They deemed it “staggering”   how government assistance programs effectively pay costs that  major food chains refuse to.

Most fast food workers (68 percent) are single or married adults  not currently attending school and 26 percent are raising  children – debunking the stereotype that teenagers fill most of  said positions.

The numbers were assembled in a report written by economists from  the University of California at Berkley and the University of  Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Published Tuesday, the report is  affiliated with an organization that has lobbied for the Service  Employees International Union’s (SEIU) involvement in the fast  food industry and comes after workers throughout the US have  called for higher wages and safer working conditions.

Only 13 percent of workers receive health benefits from their  employers, compared to 59 percent of workers elsewhere. An  individual working at McDonalds or Burger King, for example, also  works an average of ten hours less than his or her full-time  counterpart working for a non-fast food company.

The study examined the years between 2007 and 2011, determining  that taxpayers subsidized the industry by an average rate of $7  billion each year.

Conservative groups mobilized against the report before its  Tuesday publication, claiming the authors exaggerated their  findings for the sake of making a political statement.

In its quest to unionize the fast food industry, the SEIU 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 schools economics class,”   Michael Saltsman, research director at the conservative  Employment Policies Institute think tank, said in a statement to  the Los Angeles Times.

The National Restaurant Association, a trade group including some  of the most powerful restaurant chains, released a similar  statement that deemed the report misleading.

America’s restaurant industry provides opportunities for  millions of Americans, women and men from all backgrounds, to  move up the ladder and succeed,” said Scott Defife, the  association’s executive vice president for policy and government  affairs.

Another report published this month, this one by the National  Employment Law Project, determined that approximately $3.8  billion is spent on workers employed by the 10 largest fast food  companies in the US. McDonalds, the report noted, accounts for  $1.2 billion of that sum.

Experts have said that the estimated annual figures are likely  low because they do not account for school lunch programs, home  heating assistance, subsidized housing, or any state programs.

Jack Temple, public policy analyst at NELP, told the Guardian  that the current methods allow major corporations to simply  eliminate much of their expense if they are willing to act  without conscience.

It doesn’t matter whether you work or shop at McDonalds or  not,” he said. “Companies…are basically pushing off part  of their costs on the taxpayers.”


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