The people who feed you, can’t feed themselves

Food Workers rights


We all love to eat out. We celebrate life’s great achievements by going out for a meal with our loved ones, grab a quick bite while on the run, or reward ourselves with something yummy at the end of a tough day. Either way, going out to eat is part of American culture. But who are the people that actually make that experience happen?

Restaurant workers are twice as likely to use SNAP and EBT to feed themselves and their families than the rest of the American workforce. They are three times as likely to live below the poverty line. While these people barely scrape by, almost every national restaurant chain has reported record high profits in 2011.

In 2007 the federal government passed a law to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 by 2009. However, that change did not include the millions of tipped restaurant workers whose wages are frozen at $2.13 per hour. Why you may ask? In 1996, the National Restaurant Association successfully lobbied Congress to exempt tipped restaurant workers from any changes to the minimum wage laws. In return, they agreed to support efforts to raise the minimum wage for the rest of the workforce. This resulted in nearly 3 million people, over half of who are women forced to subsist solely on tips, as their paychecks are often $0 after taxes are paid.

And how about those lucky restaurant workers who are under the umbrella of the federal minimum wage? Are they able to survive without government assistance? McDonald’s recently released a budgeting tool for their minimum wage employees. It includes ludicrous assertions like health insurance costs of $20 per month or $0 per month allocated to spend on your heating bill.  It also assumes you do not buy food or put gas in your car. But perhaps the most outrageous revelation of all is the nonchalant line item, “Income, 2nd job”.  Yes McDonald’s workers, you too can live the American dream on a minimum wage job. I mean, two minimum wage jobs. As long as you don’t want to eat or be warm.

The current living wage in Oakland for one adult is $11.51 per hour. The highest paid executive at McDonald’s was paid $4.1 million plus stock in 2011. That’s $2,037 per hour. Yet, the average McDonalds employee needs a second job and food stamps simply to not be hungry. I, for one, am not lovin’ it.


Posted on October 10, 2013 in Articles

Share the Story

About the Author

Jacqueline Gleason is a Colorado native who moved to the Bay Area to pursue her passion for food justice, healthful living, and empowering communities.

Add a comment

Back to Top