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Food Stamps for Kentucky's Fast Food Workers?

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Monday, October 21, 2013   

FRANKFORT, Ky. - They work hard to get you a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a quick dinner for your family at night, but many fast-food workers depend on public assistance in order to make ends meet for their own families. According to research from the University of California at Berkeley, of Kentucky's 32,000 fast-food workers, 46 percent make so little income that they turn to one of several public-benefit programs.

Amy Hanauer, a work and wages policy analyst, said the jobs often include low pay, no benefits and part-time status.

"These are hard-working people that have jobs, but they still have to rely on things like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Medicaid, or children's health insurance, or food stamps."

According to the research, more than half of the families of front-line fast-food workers across the country are enrolled in public assistance programs, compared to 25 percent of the general work force.

Report author Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at UC Berkeley, said the research uncovered broader problems in the U.S. economy. She said corporate profits as a share of national income are at record highs, while the share going to workers is at a 55-year low, and falling.

"Low-wage workers really took it on the chin during the Great Recession," Allegretto said. "They were asked to have hours cut, they had pay that was frozen or cut; and now that the economy is growing again and corporate profits are again soaring, the workers are not sharing in those benefits."

Kentucky uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Amy Hanauer said a higher minimum wage or unionizing the industry could help fast-food workers get better pay, which in turn would help Kentucky families and reduce public costs. According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, if the federal minimum wage had kept up with the average worker's wage growth over the last four decades, it would be at $10.50.

Link to the report at LaborCenter.Berkeley.edu.




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