This year McDonald's raked in $1.5 billion in profits, up 5 percent from last year. Meanwhile, taxpayers shelled out $1.2 billion in public assistance for McDonald’s employees who don't make enough to feed their families, according to a report released last week from the National Employment Project. Public assistance includes food stamps, medical help, and housing. In all, 52 percent of families of fast food workers are on public assistance and they’re twice as likely as those in other professions to need public assistance, according to a report from Fast Food Forward.
According to Reuters, fast food employees work an average of 24 hours a week at $8.94 per hour, which comes out to only $11,000 a year. And before you envision teenagers flipping burgers for their summer jobs, realize that 67 percent of frontline fast food workers are 20 years old or over, 68 percent are the main wage earners in their families, and 25 percent have kids.
This lack of a living wage has become more pressing as the economy recovers, because 70 percent of all jobs created have been in low wage sectors like fast food. Food service corporations pay their employees next to nothing with little hope of wage increases, while taxpayers end up making up the difference. While McDonald’s workforce collected the lion’s share of federal assistance, they’re not the only company pulling this bait and switch. KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell employees collected $648 million in assistance, Subway $236 million, Burger King $356 million, Wendy’s $278 million, and the list goes on.
In April, fast food workers in New York City staged a strike, chanting “we can’t survive on $7.25,” the current minimum wage in the city. The group Fast Food Forward organized the strike in an effort to increase the wage for fast food employees to $15 per hour, a miminum wage that respects inflation and cost of living. The National Restaurant Association says that paying 13 million employees a living wage would devastate the industry.
Image: Sean MacEntee