The incident comes just over a week after researchers at the University of California at Berkeley issued a report on the cost to the public of low-wage jobs in the fast food industry. The Berkeley study found that 52% of families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public assistance programs, more than double the rate of entire U.S. workforce.
The cost to U.S. taxpayers according to the study is $7 billion a year. Healthcare accounts for $3.9 billion of the annual cost through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The question, of course, is what responsibility do McDonald’s and other employers have to pay their employees a wage that those employees can live on. Last summer we looked at the cost to McDonald’s, Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM), Burger King Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: BKW), and The Wendy’s Co. (NASDAQ: WEN) of paying a minimum wage of $15 an hour their tens of thousands of employees. We figured the cost to McDonald’s alone exceeded $8 billion. Combined, the cost to all four companies (and their franchise owners) came to nearly $20 billion.
Is the $7 billion currently paid out to fast-food workers through public programs a reasonable subsidy for U.S. taxpayers to pay in order to save the fast-food companies some $20 billion in wage costs? The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.