90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, October 17, 2013

Most Fast Food Workers Rely On Public Assistance

Protestors demonstrate outside a fast food restaurant on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP/Nick Ut)

Protestors demonstrate outside a fast food restaurant on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP/Nick Ut)

A new report by researchers at the University of California Berkeley finds that despite working and taking home a pay-check, more than half of fast-food workers rely on public assistance programs such as food stamps or Medicaid to cover their basic needs.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • suequeue

    The idea that fast food “…businesses are paying [their workers] a wage that businesses judge to be, you know, roughly equal to the value they’re adding to the production process” is on the face of it, patent nonsense. Businesses are doing what businesses always do, which is trying to maximize their profits by paying as low a wage as the market will bear, which, in the case of an economy with a near unlimited supply of unskilled labor, is the minimum wage–duh. This is why the minimum wage exists. And the fact that fast food workers earning this wage or close to it need $7 billion of government support is also prima facie evidence that the minimum wage needs to be raised.

    As for the “common sense” argument that raising these workers’ wages will lead to such a slowdown in hiring that there will be an overall increase in government assistance, how about looking at some of the actual published research on this subject rather than taking the “thoughts” of someone who works for AEI, a notoriously conservative think tank? Jared Bernstein (works for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to VP Joe Biden, etc.) says, “…anyone blithely citing the classical model, as Rep Boehner did the other day: (“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it”), is speaking from prejudice, not from the evidence.”

    So yes, as Ms. Aubrey concludes, “there’s a lot more to come on this topic” but with any luck, it will be statistics about actual research rather than more talking points from an industry trying to protect its soaring dividends, stock prices, and profits.

  • Lazlo Mortimer

    Here’s an entirely different employee compensation model:

    Dick’s Drive Inn[s] Seattle
    $10 per hr to start Merit raises to $10.50 in 3 mos
    100% employer-paid health insurance & subsidized dental to every employee who works at least 24 hrs per wk
    College vocational/self-improvement scholarships up to $22,000 over 4 years to employees working 20 hrs per wk for at least 6 mos
    An extension the Scholarship Program, childcare assistance of between $3K-$8K per yr to employees working 20 hrs per wk for at least 6 mos
    Dick’s pays volunteer-employee’s their regular hourly wage for up to 4 hrs per mo of volunteer time.


    If a small family owned company can do this why can’t McDonald’s?

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 15 26 Comments

A Call To Reject Corporal Punishment As Part Of Black Culture

An incident of child abuse by an NFL player has raised questions about the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in the African-American community.

September 15 26 Comments

Would You Pay To Get Your Kid Into A Top College?

A San Francisco company charges parents for a consulting package based on the odds their student will get into a certain university, with prices up to a million dollars.

September 12 9 Comments

Senator: Arab Countries ‘Need To Step To The Plate’ In Fight Against ISIS

Mark Begich (D-AK) is one of the few members of Congress speaking out against a key part of President Obama's plan for fighting the Islamic State.

September 12 Comment

Ecuadorian Drilling Damage Inspires Documentary

An American and an Ecuadorian are inspired to help Ecuador heal from decades of drilling and oil spills.