Everyone has heard the arguments from the right that say paying the workers in the fast food industry a living wage would cost the country more than it can bear in lost jobs and therefore lost tax revenues. Even though those claims have been challenged many times, they continue to maintain that it is irresponsible to call for those increases.
Previous studies have shown that paying the workers at McDonald’s $15 an hour would raise the cost of a Big Mac by only 68 cents, a sum that would hardly break the bank and would keep very few from eating at the franchise.
The arguments to maintain these low wage positions are always the same: the company cannot raise wages and remain competitive, these are entry level positions, they can move up to management and even become a franchise, etc.
While it was at one time the case that most of those workers were teenagers, this is no longer true. According to Ken Jacobs, who was involved with the Berkley study, 70% are over 20 years-old and the median age is 29. One-third are attempting to support a family with the low wage fast food job.
He says that the argument that they can move up to management or become a franchise owner is another red herring. 2% of fast food employees are managerial, and only 1% have any hope of ever becoming a franchisee.
As he points out these are not mom-and-pop operations, these are multi-national corporations making billions in profits every year. The dependence on government subsidies for their workers is part of the business model: 52% of fast food workers’ families depend on government assistance in some form. In other words they not only know that there are a large number of their employees receiving aid, they depend on it to maintain their method of doing business.
The findings of the National Employment Law Project looked at the actual cost to the government of the ten largest fast food chains and found that they cost the taxpayers $3.8 billion a year, McDonald’s which employs 2.25 million workers is responsible for $1.2 billion by itself.
These are jobs which far from reducing the welfare rolls actually add to them while giving the appearance of creating jobs.