Low wages for fast-food workers cost Mo. taxpayers millions

Oct 16, 2013

Fast food
Credit GrantGerlock

New research from UC Berkeley shows that American taxpayers pay nearly $7 billion a year to fund government assistance programs for fast-food workers. In Missouri, it costs $146 million a year.

Protestors met outside the Taco Bell on Nifong Boulevard in Columbia today to advocate higher wages for fast food workers.

Columbia resident James Brown is an employee at Taco Bell. He says he loves his job but gets paid just over minimum wage. He doesn’t have health or life insurance and says he struggles to afford basic necessities for his girlfriend and 18-month-old son. He relies on government assistance but says working people like himself should not have to.

“If these fast foods come together and start paying us different wages, that government assistance can go to those who really need it,” Brown said.

Brown suggests fast food restaurants increase wages to $15 an hour.

The median wage in the U.S. for a worker in fast food restaurants is currently $8.69 an hour, and only 13 percent of jobs provide health benefits. That leaves 52 percent of workers nationwide who enroll in government assistance programs. That figure is 49 percent in Missouri.

Reverend Molly Housh-Gordon said she was shocked when she read the report.

“I never would have imagined before seeing this report that it costs our taxpayers $7 billion a year,” Housh-Gordon said. “Essentially, we’re subsidizing those corporate profits on the backs of their workers, who deserve better.”

You can read the full report here.