For Immediate Release
Low Wages Paid by Fast-Food Companies Cost the Nation Nearly $7 Billion Annually
The public cost of low-wage fast-food jobs in Illinois is fourth highest in the nation
CHICAGO - Chicago fast food workers and fellow members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago were joined today by Senator Jacqueline Collins of the 16th District, Rev. C.J. Hawking, Action Now Executive Director Katelyn Johnson, and representatives from the Heartland Alliance to react to the UC Berkeley report "Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry." They also reacted to a companion report by the National Employment Law Project that breaks down the Berkeley data to show how much low-wage jobs cost the public at each of the 10 top fast food corporations. Workers and allies convened at the iconic Rock & Roll McDonald’s to speak out on the reports’ findings and called for accountability.
“The findings in this report are surprising. Taxpayers should not bear the burden of low wages when corporations like McDonald’s make billions in profits,” said Senator Collins, who joined the workers at the protest. “Fast-food workers deserve a livable wage that will not cost Illinois taxpayers $368 million dollars per year in public assistance programs. Our economy cannot grow unless hard-working families earn enough to live above the poverty line. I am calling for immediate hearings to investigate the public cost of low wage work.”
The Berkeley study also includes a breakdown by state that reveals low-wage, no-benefit fast-food jobs in Illinois cost taxpayers $368 million annually. The public cost of low-wage fast-food jobs in Illinois was among the fourth highest in the nation.
“It’s so stressful working for a minimum wage when I have children at home,” said Julia Morocho, a mother of three and a McDonald’s employee. “I work and struggle too hard to have to depend on Link card or any government help just to get by. I want my kids to learn the value of hard work for fair wages. It’s not fair that I work for one of the richest corporations on earth and I still live in poverty.”
In the Chicago area there are 275,000 low wage fast food and retail workers. An adult with one child needs to make $20.86 an hour working full time in the Chicago area just to afford the basics, according to a model developed by a professor at MIT. Nationally, the median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew at fast-food restaurants is just $8.94 an hour. In Chicago a fast food employee working the average hours per week and making the median wage would only earn $11,318 a year.
Fast-food companies have said that their low-wage jobs are stepping stones to better ones, but that couldn't be further from the truth. A report released this year by the National Employment Law Project reveals managerial positions make up just 2.2% of all jobs in the industry, proving that fast food jobs are not the "launching pad" industry officials would like Americans to believe. Likewise, the industry’s claim that its workers are teenagers is simply not backed by fact. The median age in the fast-food industry is older than 28 and more than one-quarter of fast-food workers are raising at least one child.
“If fast-food workers earned a living wage they would be able to stand on their own feet and invest in their communities,” said Action Now Executive Director Katelyn Johnson. “The health of Chicago neighborhoods would directly benefit from earning a fair wage. Taxpayer money could be better invested in revitalizing our neighborhoods, our schools, and our social programs. If companies keep paying workers as little as they can get away with, the economy will never get moving again. It's ridiculous that corporate fast food is draining money out of families and their communities.”
“The high public cost of these low-wage, no benefits jobs is paid by taxpayers for the benefit of the corporations' bottom line,” said Wendy Pollack, Director of the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “Think about that the next time you order from the dollar menu.”
Hundreds of members of WOCC have gone out on strike three times this year. Workers have been enthusiastically welcomed back by their coworkers as they returned to work, accompanied by clergy and community supporters, in the days following the strikes. Inspired by their courage and success in winning raises and other workplace victories following the strikes, hundreds of workers have since joined WOCC across chicago.