Skip to main content

Report: Taxpayers subsidize low fast food wages

Jeremy Sprinkle
Social share icons

Cost to North Carolinians is $264 million every year

Fast food is a $200 billion industry in this country. Seven publicly-traded corporations which are among the top-10 largest fast-food companies recorded, in 2012 alone, a combined $7.4 billion in profits, $53 million in executive pay, and $7.7 billion in payments to shareholders.

Nevertheless, fast food is also an industry that pays American workers poverty-level wages, and fast-food workers and their families are not the only ones paying for this corporate greed.

A new report by University of California at Berkeley Labor Center says that because 1 out of 2 fast-food workers literally cannot survive on $7.25 an hour, more-than-half (52%) have to rely on public assistance to help close the gap.

Low wages, benefits and work hours in the fast-food industry come at a public cost. For front-line fast food workers and others whose jobs pay too little to provide for food, shelter, health care and other basic necessities, Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Aid for Needy Families are indispensable programs.

Providing this public assistance becomes, in effect, a public subsidy for fast-food companies - one that costs American taxpayers an astonishing $7 billion annually. In North Carolina alone, taxpayers pay $264 million every year to provide public assistance for 54% of fast-food workers. 

We aren't talking about teenagers living at home with their parents, either, because 68% of front-line fast-food workers are adults and 26% of them live with children. Most fast-food workers (57%) work more than 30 hours a week - and they are still living in poverty.

"This is not how our country is supposed to work," said Kevin Rogers, policy and public affairs director with Action NC, in an op-ed published this week in the News & Observer:

"Anyone who works hard shouldn't have to depend on food stamps to get by, and Americans shouldn't have to pay to help incredibly profitable corporations turn more and more jobs into ones that don’t pay enough to live on." -- Kevin Rogers, 10/16/2013

On August 29th, fast-food workers in nearly 60 cities conducted strikes, walkouts, and protested outside restaurants - including in cities across North Carolina.

Join the NC Raise Up campaign to show your support.

This week fast-food workers here continued their campaign for $15 an hour and the right to form a union with actions in Durham and Charlotte. ABC 11 News covered the action outside a McDonald's in Durham:

"It's really sad that I have to step out here and I can't speak to my boss and let him know that I need more money. I'm by myself. It's ridiculous," said fast food worker Tenesha Houston.

Fast food workers, some who work a full 40 hours a week, say there is no reason why they should have to rely on public assistance.

The workers want to make enough money to stand on their own, or in one woman's case, earn enough to have her own place to live.

"I'm forced to stay in spare bedrooms in my children's house and that shouldn't be," said fast food worker Willietta Dukes.

As the largest fast-food company in the United States, McDonald's is, of course, the chief offender in this exploitation of workers and taxpayers. McDonald's paid CEO Donald Thompson $14 million last year and posted $5.5 billion in profit but cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion in public assistance for its underpaid workers.

Fast-food companies like McDonald's are parasites. They prey on their workers and the public to privatize their profits but socialize their debts. Well, we're not "lovin' it"!

Not lovin' it, either? Sign this petition by the Other 98% to the CEO's of McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's.

McTaxes: You're payin' it!

McTaxes: You're payin' it!