Burger cooks cost taxpayers $7 billion a year

Low-wage workers are making less than their counterparts did 50 years ago, and are tapping Medicaid and food stamps to bridge the gap between paychecks.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 16, 2013 4:37PM

A McDonald's employee prepares an order at a McDonald's restaurant on April 19, 2011 in San Francisco, Calif. (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)By Leslie Patton, Bloomberg News


Hamburger grillers and other fast-food workers at restaurants such as McDonald's (MCD) and Wendy’s (WEN) get about $7 billion a year in U.S. government aid, a report published Wednesday shows.


With jobs not paying enough for employees to meet their basic needs, an increasing number of working families must rely on publicly funded programs to make ends meet, according to a study from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Fast-food employees have gone on strike this year to demand $15-an-hour pay and the right to form a union as income equality in the U.S. grows. Fast-food cooks make $9 an hour on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 


While thousands of workers have protested in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Milwaukee this year, the strikes have done little so far to change the restaurant sector, which employs more than 10 million Americans.


“The industry is a heavy user of minimum-wage and low-wage workers,” Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at Berkeley and an author of the report, said in an interview. “Low-wage workers today, in general, are making less than their counterparts did 50 years ago.”


That’s why some fry cooks are finding it harder to pull themselves out of poverty and get ahead, she said.


When workers tap programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, the earned income tax credit and temporary aid for needy families to bridge the gap between paychecks, the cost is borne by taxpayers, according to the report which analyzed the years 2007 to 2011.


More than half of fast-food worker families participate in these government programs, compared with 25 percent of the total U.S. workforce, the report shows.


Congress last raised the minimum wage in 2009, and President Barack Obama's call this year to increase it to $9 an hour from $7.25 has gone nowhere with lawmakers. Some states require pay that’s higher than the federal rate.


Worker advocacy group Fast Food Forward paid for the study. The New York organization receives funding from the Service Employees International Union.


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628Comments
Oct 16, 2013 6:01PM
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Also, I been in the fast food business for 13 years and make $50k yearly.  Why?  because I worked my butt off to get where I am running a restaurant.  Worked my way up and took opportunities when I could.  Wasted my money going to college to get nothing in return but student loans.  I am entitiled to nothing and feel that I never should be.  Most people do not want to work hard and expect to get many things in return.  It is upbringing, never take anything for granted.  Take opportunities and run with them.
Oct 16, 2013 5:43PM
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This story is incomplete without calling out large retailers such as Wal-Mart, who purposely direct their workers to publicly funded programs to do more than make ends meet, they offload medical benefits onto US Taxpayers as well.
Oct 16, 2013 5:48PM
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The Federal government could save about half of that $7Bil spent on medicaid, foodstamps, etc., just by only providing it to those who prove they are citizens.
Oct 16, 2013 5:46PM
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No matter how much you spin it MSN, you're not going to convince the rest of us who had to work to get where we are that burger flippers should make more than recent college graduates. If they're still flipping burgers and decide to have a kid, rather than work on their career first, that's on them.
Oct 16, 2013 5:39PM
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The right will defend a CEO's right to earn 100 million a year or more but argue even minimum wage is too high for anyone without a skill or degree. Before laws were passed and unions organized to protect workers children as young as 8 worked 12 hours a day sometimes as little as 25c a day working beside their parents who might make $1 a day. They surrounded cities living in shanties as many 3rd world countries do today.  No holidays, paid vacations, employer health plans, time and one half or pensions. If any CEO is worth 10's of millions their employee's deserve a fair wage and $7.25 an hour isn't it.
Oct 16, 2013 5:44PM
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Go ahead and raise fast food workers pay to $15.00 an hour. All sit down restaurant employees will expect the same. Owners will be forced to pass the cost increases on to the consumer with higher menu prices. Eating out is already ridiculously expensive. Most of us will only be further motivated to eat at home.
Oct 16, 2013 5:49PM
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"With jobs not paying enough for employees to meet their basic needs, an increasing number of working families must rely on publicly funded programs to make ends meet"
They all have the latest new cell phones, tv's, tablets though
Oct 16, 2013 5:48PM
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But these jobs were never meant to be a career. At least not at the fast food places.

Supposed to be entry level jobs...starter jobs...part time jobs usually.

Unless it is a place you buy and run yourself, perhaps.

 

Oct 16, 2013 5:49PM
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Damn, Instead of working my butt off to build a modest business for myself I should have just gotten a job at McDonalds and waited for the bleeding hearts to force McD's to pay me more than I would be worth.

 Who knew "Fry cook" would one day be considered an actual career choice??? Other than Sponge Bob of course.

Oct 16, 2013 5:41PM
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ENTRY LEVEL JOB!!!!!!!!! Why would an adult want to work at a McDonalds type job all their life? No skills to get a better job? Um...um..  Oh! sue your parents! What ever you do, DO NOT take reasonability for yourself.
Oct 16, 2013 6:06PM
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"Worker advocacy group Fast Food Forward paid for the study. The New York organization receives funding from the Service Employees International Union."

 

How about a complete study? 

-Avg age

-% of citizens

-Avg education completed

-1 or 2 income family

-How many children

-Avg jobs applied for in a year (to see how many are even trying to better themselves)

 

I bet all those things would put together an interesting picture. . .

Oct 16, 2013 5:43PM
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should have gone to school.should have NOT gotten pregnant at 16.blame the wealthy blame the goverment but it you decision and your fault for making poor ones
Oct 16, 2013 6:12PM
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I have a small pizza business in a small town of 1200 people and there is no way I could afford to pay a high school kid or even a low skilled worker 15 dollars an hour. I am can hardly make it now paying them $7.25 or to some $8.00. People have no idea the costs already involved like taxes, insurance, the crazy food costs, utilities, etc. If minimum wage goes up that much I would have to raise my prices and no one would want to eat out then im out of business and im not employing anyone anymore. My employees and myself will then have to ask for assistance from guess who, the government. The very one who would but me in the situation. That is my opinion.
Oct 16, 2013 5:37PM
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Maybe we should have the burgers made in China
Oct 16, 2013 5:57PM
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Most of the fast food workers are from Mexico or south of the border.
These jobs used to be for high school kids. They've taken them away 
from them. Now they want more money and most aren't very educated.
Maybe they should go to night school.
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The solution is simple: John Kerry is too rich.  So he should pay 1000% taxes, and give the money to some guy at McDonald's.
Oct 16, 2013 5:44PM
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Caused by shi7 policy, leading to shi7 growth, and a shi7 job market.  If these people had real opportunities, they wouldn't need to make their living this way.
Oct 16, 2013 5:40PM
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We spent over a trillion dollars on the last two wars,at least these folks are trying to make a paycheck,quite complaining.

Oct 16, 2013 5:34PM
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Doesn't matter, they will get Obamacare insurance when they sign up. 
Oct 16, 2013 5:41PM
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Maybe we can outsource our burger production to India. Oh wait....
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