More than Half of Fast Food Workers Rely on Welfare

More than Half of Fast Food Workers Rely on Welfare


JESSICA DESVARIEUX: Welcome to The Real News
Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. A new study reveals that the fast food industry
cost taxpayers $7 billion a year in public assistance because of low-wage workers. According
to Ken Jacobs of the University of California, Berkeley, which compiled the data, dependence
on public assistance is the rule rather than the exception for fast food jobs. Jack Temple joins us now to discuss all this.
Jack provides writing, research, and communications support to NELP’s minimum-wage campaign. Thanks for joining us, Jack. JACK TEMPLE: Thanks so much. DESVARIEUX: So let’s get right into the numbers.
What percentage of fast food workers rely on some form of public assistance? TEMPLE: Yeah. Well, this is the real shocking
finding that leads the report. So when you look at front-line fast food workers–the
cashiers, the cooks, all the restaurant workers that we think of as the sort of low-wage workers,
the front-line workers that make up these this industry–you find that over half, 52
percent, actually rely on some form of public assistance to support themselves or their
family. And so, as you mentioned in the opening and
as Ken Jacobs said in the Berkeley report, public assistance is part of the business
model for the fast food industry. It’s not an exception. It’s not something that only
a few workers need in order to make ends meet. It’s part and parcel of the industry itself.
And that’s a problem. It’s a symptom of the fact that the industry is basically built
on low-wage jobs that leave workers with no resources in order to afford basic necessities. DESVARIEUX: Jack, how many families actually
depend on fast food wage earner as their primary household income? TEMPLE: Yeah. So this is another important
statistic, because there’s a lot of myths about the fast food industry, in the sense–which
I think–I’m sure you’ve heard before is that the fast food industry is generally teenagers
or young workers, very few have kids, they’re generally working for side money. And even
if that was true, maybe, at one time, it’s certainly no longer the case today, and the
data really show this. You know, given the fact that over the past couple of decades
growing numbers of low-wage workers have–growing numbers of workers, actually, throughout the
economy have found themselves relying on low-wage work, we see older workers, more workers trying
to support children in these traditionally low-wage industries. And so for fast food,
for example, 70 percent of all fast food workers are over the age of 20. The median age in
fast food is almost 29 years old. So these are adult workers, not teen. And a third of
these adult workers are supporting children at home. And so these workers are on very
meager wages trying to support family. DESVARIEUX: So, as you said, a third of fast
food workers actually support a family. What other sort of findings or conceptions, preconceived
conceptions that we have about fast food workers that you found out through your research? TEMPLE: Well, I think what we’ve been learning,
you know, over the last year, as I’m sure you’ve followed, there have been growing numbers
of strikes and protests across the country. Most recently, around Labor Day there were
protests in 60 different cities across the country of fast food workers walking off the
job and demanding higher wages. And I think what we’ve learned throughout
this time is that the fast food industry, you know, the reality is very much different
than what you hear at the corporate level. For example, you hear corporations say that
the fast food industry is a launching pad, that workers may start out earning low-wages
but could move up to become managers or open their own franchise someday. And the reality
is very different. Managerial positions make up just 2 percent of the fast food industry.
Franchise owners make up just 1 percent of the fast food industry. And so by and large
it’s these front-line workers, the ones that are relying on public assistance in order
to make ends meet and support their families, that make up the basically over 90 percent
of the entire industry. It’s not an industry where you can start out, you know, flipping
burgers or making change at the cash register and have a plausible chance of owning your
own franchise one day or becoming the manager at a restaurant. And the other surprising part of the fast
food industry is that almost unlike any other industry, this is an industry where major
companies, major multinational chains that are driving the trends that we’re seeing across
the industry–. So it’s not small mom-and-pop shops that can’t afford higher wages. It’s
not small businesses that we often hear about when we talk about raising the minimum wage.
These are multinational companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King. And they’re highly profitable
companies. You know, McDonald’s alone made about five and a half billion dollars worth
of profits last year. The CEO, you know, made several millions in executive compensation.
And so this is a highly profitable industry, and it’s based on a business model of paying
poverty-level wages. DESVARIEUX: Wow. Really fascinating study.
And we really appreciate you being on the The Real News Network. TEMPLE: Thank you so much for your time. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on
The Real News Network.

48 thoughts on “More than Half of Fast Food Workers Rely on Welfare

  1. Wal-Mart is so guilty of this to and I think it should be a crime for these corps to have there wages and policies set up like this so they get monster profits while the people suffer. I say make them all pay or shut there asses down!

  2. The government should step in and do something about things like this, all these big companies r playing by the rules set by the government. It's not fair change the rules god dammit

  3. the McDonald profit is subsidised by tax payers !!! directly. So if all fast food workers decided to strike country wide, will it force companies like Wendy, McDonald to look into employee min starting wage. ???

  4. So,where's free market,exactly?Banks and other financial entities took trillions from American gov,where they should be let "market to regulate itself" and blast frauds into oblivion,arm industry intertwined with government,taking advandage,even now and cases like this,while schools and hospitals and benefits been taken away?!!

  5. in my region of Southeast Asia, fast food workers flip hamburgers for only $2 an hour.

    it must be heaven in America to have taxpayers subsidizing wages of fast food workers and helping fast food corporations to save expenses.

  6. people need to unionize the hell out of all of these dirty corporations, or better yet, shut them down and replace them with something socially and environmentally healthy. their business model: abuse animals, abuse the environment, exploit workers, destroy people's health, & run to the bank laughing. so sick.

  7. I wished fast food CEOs gad to wait on people that feel the way about that poison as I do…lol…they'd be the ones looking for another job because of no business.

  8. Whats fucked up is america would rather send monetary to foreign countries and fund multiple wars rather than feed its people

  9. I say, the gov needs to focus its energy and resources to creating bussiness for the people its supposed to work for. Basically, take the positions of the major corporations,bankers,etc and install the PEOPLE there were all profits go strictly back to the people to make better things happen,like free healthcare,healthier affordable foods and energy output.

  10. Fortune 500 companies have too much power. Time to nationalize them, and only allow small businesses to be privately owned.

  11. Yea we need to make the govt bigger, so it puts more pressure on these people- so it can take better care of them obviously.

  12. Anyone working these jobs really deserve a living wage.I once worked at McDonalds & I absolutely hated it.The work is energy consuming,tedious,–the environment is slippery/greasy,you're in a small kitchen area all day, you're exposed to cleaning chemicals throughout the day (toxic endocrine disrupting), it's hard to get along with other employees because everyone is cramped & bumping into each other, customers are rude, the food is unhealthy- by the time the work day is done you are exhausted.

  13. Low-wage jobs cost tax payers a lot of money and one way to pay for public assistance in America. Would be to have employers who have low-wage workers to have to pay for their public assistance.

  14. If you lack capital and you need a source of income to gain access to goods and commodities to consume to live you are compelled by necessity to either rent yourself out to a boss for a wage or you are "free" to go starve in the street (a third option is living off the charity of others). That is the implied violence inherent in the capitalist system.

  15. Yes, & even if you have a low income job, one is doing a lot of work for small amount & though one may not starve, life is still very unhealthy in many ways from the economic strain of paycheck to paycheck, to the level of vulnerability to many evils at that low status level, to unhealthy environments, to general low quality life, it adds up & takes years off people's life & points off of their IQ: google "cognitive bandwidth".

  16. also when you are reliant on others charity–you must be prepared to meet their expectations and one will be in a very vulnerable position if they must rely on someone else who can withhold at will. This can seriously hinder self expression, and free choice and right to disagree or dissent and encourages a person to conform to the will of their source of charity– it also makes a person vulnerable to someone who could exploit them or use them perhaps in illegal or dehumanizing ways.

  17. Wages should not be based off of how old you are or how many mouths you need to feed.

    If you take a job that was meant as a stepping stone, then you will get paid as such.

  18. So you want Wal-Mart to go out of business and the 1.7 MILLION people they employ to lose their jobs? Kudos for doing your part to fire 1.7 Million people.

    You sir deserve a FUCKING medal.

  19. Then those workers need to grow up and QUIT. If a job is degrading or doesn't pay enough, QUIT.

    Why keep going to work when you aren't being treated right? It's stupid to keep working for low pay and horrible working conditions.

  20. he wont get it. these types never do. they purposefully reduce the concept of violence to "putting a gun to your head" in order the capitalist is able to go about claiming capitalism is a peaceful system. exploiting people isnt a crime, coercion through the fiction of private property is the agrarian capitalist's and the industrial capitalist's supreme right. hell its constitutional. the real violence would of course be the exploited working class organizing and arming itself and striking back

  21. because it would never last under the capitalist system. only a mass working class movement could successfully push for such a thing but it will be watered down before its even passed and once it has passed the capitalist class will start chipping away at it until years down the line we are back where we started. it also leaves unresolved the issue why should the capitalist class be allowed to concentrate wealth at all? such concentration is built upon stealing from the working population

  22. Then you agree that they don't have any marketable skills that would command a higher wage. They wasted their life, I hope they had fun.

  23. Whether someone has marketable skills or not doesn't mean that they aren't going to need to work a job like McDonalds.There are many skilled people who can't find employment. If one does not have skills it does not follow that they should be punished even if their lack of skills are the result of having made mistakes in life. People make mistakes & continue to make mistakes that is how humans are, that does not mean they should be entrapped in a life of wage slavery.You sound very mean spirited.

  24. That doesn't say anything to me, it is a very general statement, bland platitude— who is to say they have not taken personal responsibility? and have you considered the circumstances of peoples' lives? People have different issues physical,mental,psychological,social,spiritual that are all influencing factors in their circumstances. There needs to be a more flexible considerate social structure, generous enough to keep people from unnecessary deprivation.

  25. No they didn't, that is a very simplistic assumption on your part, and an easy way to avoid any inconvenient cognitive dissonance that would occur if you actually had to activate your conscience and think with some degree of complexity.

  26. Why? Because the effects of deprivation include disease,premature aging,relationship dysfunction,mental health problems,undue stress, lowered IQ & many other unnecessary things.What is the right thing to do? Let it continue? or make honest effort to reduce the problems? 2. When people are healthy & have the access & opportunity convenient to reach their highest potentials it increases the well being of the entire society by reducing the overall negative impact of the consequences of deprivation.

  27. No, they didn't. They're just doing what they neded to to make a living. Not all of us have the lucurt or rich parents.

    "Oh but they made a choice, what's the matter?" If you're reffering to why the chose a jbo at mcdonalds, it's likely because they were born so poor they couldn't get an education for a job anywhere else. If you're given a 'Do this or suffer" scenario, your will to survive is easily going to win out over your pride.

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