Fast Food Wages and Income Inequality (Rebroadcast from 2014)
For the week of February 26, 2017
In recent years, a debate has raged over raising the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 has not increased since 2009. Some states and cities have passed laws establishing a minimum wage above the federal mandate. Minneapolis is holding listening sessions for the public to weigh in on a proposal to boost the minimum wage for workers in the city. At the state capitol, some lawmakers are supporting legislation that would strike down employment regulations set by municipalities. Advocates for a higher minimum wage say it will improve the economy, but opponents believe businesses will scale back their work forces.
Guest: Ken Jacobs, Chair at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and co-author of “Fast Food, Poverty Wages.”
“The combination of low wages, meager benefits and often part-time hours means that many of the [fast food workers] have to rely on tax-payer funded safety net programs to make ends meet,” says Jacobs. Of the four largest national federal safety net programs (health insurance, earned income tax credit, supplemental nutrition assistance program and temporary aid for needy families), the cost of public assistance to fast food workers is $7 billion. “When companies pay so low that people can’t survive and support their families, that does have a cost for the rest of us.”
Low wages and reliance on public subsidies goes hand in hand with the growing income inequality in the US. “We have an economy that is consumer based and we need to have a strong middle class,” Jacobs says on the negative effects income inequality has on the US economy.