salon.com Twin studies released at noon Tuesday estimate that the majority of families of front-line fast food workers use public assistance, at a taxpayer cost of nearly $7 billion a year, while seven publicly-traded fast food corporations made $7.4 billion in profit last year.
The first study finds that 52 percent of families of workers employed at least 27 weeks a year and 10 hours a week in rank-and-file fast food jobs are enrolled in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the program that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children under “welfare reform”). That includes a majority of those workers who are employed at least 40 hours week. The study, “Fast Food, Poverty Wages,” was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Urban & Regional Planning, and funded by the labor group Fast Food Forward. The estimates were based on government data.
A second study, by the pro-union National Employment Law Project, extended the analysis to individual companies, estimating that McDonald’s workers received $1.2 billion in public assistance while the corporation netted $5.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 profits, and devoted $5.5 billion to dividends and stock buybacks.
“This is the public cost of low-wage jobs in America,” write the authors of the Berkeley–Urbana-Champaign study. “The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and federal spending.”