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Study Shows Low Fast Food Wages Cost Public A Small Fortune

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 15, 2013 7:00PM

Photo credit: Chicagoist/aaroncynic

Low wage fast food jobs cost Illinois taxpayers $368 million annually, according to a study released today by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor and Research and the University of Illinois Department of Urban and Regional Planning. The report said the cost of low wages nationally grows to nearly $7 billion as 52 percent of fast food workers enroll their families in public assistance programs. With a median wage for front-line fast food workers at $8.69 an hour and only 13 percent of jobs providing health benefits, employees end up relying on Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and other government assistance.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins joined members of the Fight For 15 movement and other low wage workers at a brief press conference in front of the Rock and Roll McDonald’s on Clark Street Tuesday.

Collins said:

“I believe we do not lack the resources, but the will and the empathy to make the investment in the working poor. We should be able to create policies that have the potential to economically empower them. When working class individuals are able to secure and maintain steady, decent employment with adequate compensation, that will allow them to rise above the poverty line and I believe society benefits.”

According to the report, the 10 largest fast food companies—with McDonald’s leading the pack—are responsible for 60 percent of the public costs associated with low wages. “It’s hard trying to make a living in Chicago off $8.25,” said Pelhom Wiley, a 22-year-old McDonald’s employee who said he relies on food stamps to supplement his income. Sonia Acuna, a 10-year McDonald’s employee said “We’re earning $8.25 an hour, we have to work two jobs in order to provide for our children. We can’t spend any time with them, we don’t have a moment with them because we have to work so much to get ahead.”

The report said government aid programs would be more effective if they were combined with efforts to improve wages and health benefits of low wage workers and, if achieved, would reduce the cost to the public. Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director at Action Now, said "If fast-food workers earned a living wage they would be able to stand on their own feet and invest in their communities."