This summer, fast-food workers across the country staged walkouts in 50 cities to demand a living wage, and a new study from UC Berkeley shows just how low those wages really are. Using data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau combined with public benefit programs, the study shows that 52 percent of front-line fast-food employees—such as cashiers, cooks, custodians, and greeters—are on some form of public assistance. The incredibly low median $8.94 hourly wage, combined with lack of healthcare benefits, and low hours make front-line fast-food employees particularly reliant on programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
A complimentary study produced by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), says the result of paying fast-food workers low wages is also costing taxpayers money. According to NELP the top 10 fast-food companies in the U.S. cost taxpayers approximately $3.8 billion. The findings from these studies also show that fast-food employees, more than those in any other type of service work, are disproportionately dependent on public assistance to make ends meet.