The cost to Michigan’s public is $251 million, study shows
(DETROIT, MI) — Elected officials joined more than 100 fast food workers and their supporters Tuesday in a demonstration outside a downtown Detroit Wendy’s restaurant to advocate for a living wage.
The protest by the D15 campaign highlighted two studies released Tuesday that show how the low wages paid by fast food corporations put high costs onto taxpayers — because most of the workers have to rely on government assistance to get by.
“It’s a shame that when someone works full-time, they cannot earn enough to raise their family,” said State Rep. Jon Switalski, who joined in Tuesday’s protest. State Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Alberta Tinsley-Talabi and Brian Banks also participated.
In Michigan, the taxpayer cost of low-wage fast food jobs is $251 million, with 52% of fast food workers forced to rely on public assistance to cover basic needs, according to the report by the University of California, Berkeley. A second report, by the National Employment Law Project, shows that the 10 biggest fast food corporations are responsible for $3.8 billion nationally in public costs associated with the industry’s low pay and lack of benefits.
The reports underscore the high price that not only fast food workers, but also taxpayers, suffer because of the low wages paid by the fast food industry. Even when working 40 hours a week, more than half of front-line fast food employees are forced to rely on public assistance, the Berkeley study showed.
Leah Proctor is one of them. The 60-year-old Detroiter works at a Wendy’s earning the state’s minimum wage of $7.40 an hour. She survives with the help of food stamps.
“If fast food companies paid their workers a living wage, we wouldn’t have to rely on food stamps to make ends meet,” she said. The Wendy’s average annual cost of public assistance to employees is $278 million, according to the NELP report, and $1.2 billion for McDonald’s.
D15 is a coalition of metro Detroit fast food and retail workers, community organizations and faith leaders fighting to raise the minimum wage and for the right to form a union without interference. For more information, visit detroit15.org.