In addition to short-changing employees and customers, the cheapness of the fast-food industry, which nationally pays its core workers an average of $8.69, leaves taxpayers paying nearly $7 billion annually. That’s the major conclusion of a new report, Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry, from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The majority of employees at fast-food restaurants are paid so poorly that they are forced to enroll in public assistance programs, despite the industry making $200 billion a year.
“The taxpayer costs we discovered were staggering,” says Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and co-author of the report. “People who work in fast-food jobs are paid so little that having to rely on public assistance is the rule, rather than the exception, even for those working 40 hours or more a week.”
Only 28% of core fast-food workers work 40 or more hours per week, compared to 75% of the overall workforce. Unlike the common stereotype of fast-food workers, the report shows more than two-thirds of the industry’s core workers are older than 20, 68% are the primary wage earners in their families and more than 25% of them are parents.
“This report shows in stark numbers the larger economic consequences that result from low wages and how it affects all of us, says Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “In a nation as wealthy as the United States, no one who works hard for a living should live in poverty. Underpaying workers affects us all. These highly profitable companies paying poverty wages should raise wages and listen to their workers’ demands to form a union. We should also increase the minimum wage, as I have proposed. These steps are not only the right thing to do for low-wage workers, but also the smart thing to do for the economy and for taxpayers.”
Fast-food workers receive money from numerous federal programs—receiving benefits at twice the overall rate of the workforce—and the $7 billion total doesn’t include state and local programs. The top federal expenditures on fast-food workers are:
- Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, $3.9 billion per year;
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, $1.04 billion per year; and
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $82 million per year.
“It just doesn’t make sense that we prepare and cook food for people every day, but instead of being paid enough to feed our own families, many of us can’t afford three meals every day,” says Devonte Yates, a McDonald’s worker in Milwaukee who earns $7.25 an hour. “I don’t want to be on food stamps. I’d rather stand on my own two feet. McDonald’s should raise wages so we can afford decent food for ourselves.”
The report was funded by Fast Food Forward, a New York City-based coalition of workers and labor, religious and community groups. Read the full report from UC Berkeley.
A separate report from the National Employment Law Project looks more closely at the top 10 biggest fast-food companies and finds that they alone are responsible for 60% of the nearly $7 billion in public costs associated with their low wages, despite having more than $7.4 billion in profits last year. McDonald’s workers alone account for $1.2 billion of public assistance spending each year.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, fast food, Jobs, minimum wage, Rights At Work, taxes
City Council candidate Carlos Menchaca
Local and municipal elections matter.
Just ask a service worker in Philadelphia who can’t afford to take a sick day because the city council was one vote short of overriding Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a paid sick days ordinance.
Or ask a retail worker in Washington, D.C., where the City Council is currently one vote short of a veto-proof majority in favor the Large Retail Accountability Act (LRAA), which would establish a living wage for big box retail workers.
You can also ask anyone who sends their child to public school in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has closed dozens of public schools, and where the city’s students are being moved around like chess pieces to make room for a pro-corporate education “reform” agenda.
Yes, city leaders of both parties have been too willing lately to kowtow to corporate interests over the needs of their constituents. But in last night’s New York City primary, there were some signs of hope for working families.
1.) Voters approved of plan to raise taxes on super-rich to pay for schools. To succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest people on the planet and a staunch defender of rich people’s interests, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio ran on a plan to raise taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more and using the revenue to establish universal Pre-K. The plan was derided by Bloomberg and much of the the city’s wealthy elite.
But yesterday, de Blasio took 40 percent in a crowded primary, a sign that some of the folks in NYC making less than $500,000 a year (roughly, shall we say, 99 percent?) favor balancing out our tax system to bolster basic services.
2.) Opposition to earned paid sick days was a liability. The longtime expected frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saw her support recede and then evaporate over the summer. Partly, because she was seen as the main obstacle to a paid sick days ordinance for New York City. The ordinance was introduced in 2010 but Quinn refused to bring it to a vote, saying that it would put “undue burden” on NYC businesses, according to the New York Times.
It took three years of pushing from a broad coalition, including the Working Families Party and well-known activist Gloria Steinem, to finally get Quinn to compromise on a sick days ordinance, which sailed through with overwhelming support. Yet her long-held intransigence, which she never truly explained, hurt her in the race, particularly with woman voters.
“We were pleased the bill finally passed,” says Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, “But all I could think about when I was at the press conference was the number of people I met who had been fired in the past three-and-a-half years.” Voters apparently agreed, giving the once-frontrunner Quinn a third place finish.
3.) The real estate lobby spent big money to beat a local labor leader, but he won anyway. In a crowded primary for the Queens-based 27th council district, I. Daneek Miller came out on top last night. Miller is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and a supporter of affordable housing, so naturally the city’s powerful real-estate lobby was determined to stop him. A real-estate backed PAC spent $261,533 backing up one of Miller’s opponents, but Miller prevailed: the current count gives him a lead of 396 votes.
“There have been tough times for labor and working families,” Miller said last night, “The consensus is: we need a voice. Now we have that voice we set out to represent.”
4.) This 32 year-old won a huge upset in Brooklyn to become council’s first Mexican-American. Sara Gonzalez sat in Brooklyn’s 38th council district for decade, and regularly was a no-show at council meetings and public events. She may have expected a smooth reelection this time around. But Carlos Menchaca, a 32 year-old openly gay Latino community activist, unseated her last night by a 16-point margin. (“Men-shocka!” was the headline in The Brooklyn Paper.)
Menchaca will be the first openly gay elected official to represent Brooklyn and the first Mexican-American on the New York City Council. He was active with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Sandy, especially in badly-damaged Red Hook.
“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” Menchaca told supporters last night, “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about your needs.”
5.) Pro-worker candidates won across the board. The New York Central Labor Council endorsed 43 candidates for City Council in run up to yesterday’s election. 39 of those candidates won outright last night, with two races (Kirsten John Foy in District 36 and Austin Shafran in District 5) still too close to call.
After 12 years of a Bloomberg Administration that was cold to outright hostile to New York’s labor community, it’s heartening to see advocates of working families have such a good night at the local level.
Bonus.) Dante de Blasio’s hair wins mayor’s race, observers say.
Check out this actual headline from USA Today. And this Twitter account. And this cartoon. We can’t remember the last time one person’s haircut played such a decisive role in an election.
What did you think of last night’s election? Let us know in the comments.
Photo of Carlos Menchaca by @lingene_1 on Twitter
Tags: Education, elections, inequality, New York, Rights At Work, taxes, transportation
The radical policies of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and his legislative allies is having the opposite effect they said it would.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in July, higher than the national average of 7.4 percent. That makes it the fifth highest in the nation.
Moreover, the sectors that grew are those that have the lowest wages:
Over the past 12 months, the leisure and hospitality sector has added 21,500 jobs, more than any other sector.
[N.C. Justice Center public policy analyst Allan] Freyer said that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that those jobs pay an average of $8.30 an hour.
“That says the state’s growth opportunities are in ultra-low-wage jobs,” Freyer said. “That’s not the direction we want to be going.”
In recent months, Gov. McCrory and his allies enacted enormous cuts to unemployment insurance, which Bill Rowe of the N.C. Justice Center called “one of the most radical, is not the most radical proposals in the country.” They also passed a tax plan that lowers income tax and corporate while slicing the earned income tax credit for struggling families.
Gov. McCrory claimed both measures would help “job creation.” The same refrain was used by Gov. Scott Walker for his actions in Wisconsin to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers and his own tax plan that ended the state earned income tax credit. Wisconsin is also experiencing economic woes, also falling behind the rest of the country on employment.
What both governors are ignoring is that we know the path to prosperity: higher wages, public investment in infrastructure and education, and a tax plan that asks the rich to pay their fair share. Not the exact opposite.
But as McCrory’s recent voter suppression law shows, he’s not really interested in what the people think. He’s more interested in following the Walker model of ALEC-inspired, pro-corporate, anti-worker governance. In both North Carolina and Wisconsin, hundreds have gone to jail in recent weeks for protesting the state’s leadership.
If you’re in North Carolina, join our fight for working families by emailing Catherine at email@example.com.
Tags: Jobs, moral monday, North Carolina, Pat McCrory, Scott Walker, taxes, unemployment, unemployment insurance, voting rights, Wisconsin
The tax structure in Ohio is grossly unfair: the richest 1% pay a state tax rate of about 6.3%. The rest of us pay about 10% to 12%.
There’s a silver lining here: it means that there’s untapped potential revenue to pay for great schools, infrastructure, local government services, health care and more. To fund aggressive job creation improve quality of life, we could simply rearrange the tax code so that the richest Ohioans are paying a bottom-line rate that is closer to the rates that the rest of us are already paying. This would directly create good jobs providing vital services—and it would create private sector jobs by putting money directly into the pockets of the people providing these services. That money would be spent in businesses, who would hire more employees to meet the demand. That’s how economics works when the economy is depressed, like it is right now.
That’s the vision behind Working America’s listening tour and educational campaign around the state budget this year. We reached out to 10,000 members to see how they responded. Members were overwhelmingly supportive of the campaign: more than 3,000 took the time to write personal, handwritten letters about how fair taxes would help their communities. Most of our members are moderates and conservatives, but it doesn’t matter where you stand in terms of political ideology. Hardly anyone thinks that it makes sense, or is fair, for the richest people to pay a far lower tax rate than the rest of us.
Unfortunately, we have a Governor and a legislature whose views on this issue are directly opposed to the views of most working Ohioans. Before he was first elected, the Governor expressed his hope that the income tax would be phased out completely. The income tax is the main tax that richer Ohioans have to pay, but a relatively small share of the taxes paid by the rest of us. Sure enough, Kasich is doing everything he can to make taxes even more unfair. Hi proposed budget would have given the richest 1% of households a hand-out of more than $10,000 per year–but raise taxes on most Ohioans even further. I’m not kidding.
That hand-out was to be paid for by increasing sales taxes, which hit the rest of us much harder than the rich, and in cuts to education and local governments, including public safety. Public pressure from Working America members helped scale back the Governor’s original obscene requests, but he still ended up giving the richest 1% about $6,000 per year. This was paid for by a sales tax hike, and changes that will either hurt schools or increase local levy costs. The Governor’s budget takes money and resources from the rest of us and gives it to the richest 1%. It just doesn’t make economic sense.
The Governor’s theory seems to be that taking money from the rest of us, and giving it to the rich, will create jobs. Administrations since Governor Taft have been testing this theory for a while now. Starting in 2005, we’ve had continual tax cuts for the rich that helped make our taxes less fair. Since then, we have been 47th in the nation in job creation, just like basic economics would predict. The Governor continued with that failed approach in his first budget, and doubled down on it in the last budget. It should surprise no one that, over the last year, Ohio was once again 47th in the nation in job creation…and the jobs that have been created haven’t been very good. Undeterred by the continued failure of the theory, the Governor has continued to double down on his approach.
Working America members were frustrated by Kasich’s determination to make an unfair and destructive situation even worse. So on August 20th, Working America members, along with allies like the Alliance for Retired Americans, held a press event at the Ohio State House. We brought with us more than 3,000 letters to Governor Kasich.
Unfortunately, when members spoke to the governor’s staff about this important question, we were told that the rich already pay plenty, and were briskly sent on our way.
We aren’t deterred by this response. It is often hard to get political elites to understand how disconnected they are from their constituents, but we are strengthened and encouraged by the results of our listening tour. We’re hopeful, because we know that Ohioans across the political spectrum share our perspective, even if some of our politicians do not.
If you’re feeling like we can’t make a difference, I encourage you to join us as we reach out to communities across Ohio. Ask a few people with different political views if they think it is fair that the rich pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us. You’ll discover that you can find common ground with people you would have never suspected.
Tags: budget, economy, Jobs, Ohio, tax fairness, taxes
The North Carolina legislature isn’t in session. But outside the capital of Raleigh, the Moral Monday movement continues unabated. Thousands turned out to voice their opposition to the extremist policies set forth by Gov. Pat McCrory and his allies in the legislature, from voter suppression to a reactionary tax plan to his treatment of public school teachers.
The three protests spanned the state: Charlotte, the biggest city; Burnsville, in the west closer to the Kentucky border; and Manteo, on the eastern coast.
Meanwhile, the Gov. McCrory’s backwards agenda is having an effect on his poll numbers. Public Policy Polling, the most accurate pollster in the 2012 election, found that only 39 percent approve of McCrory, while 51 percent disapprove. The North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) is doing even worse, with only 24 percent approval. Half of voters, including 21 percent of Republicans, say the NCGA is making their state a national embarrassment.
Here are some incredible images from yesterday’s three-city Moral Monday rally. Thanks to all who tweeted, Tumbl’d, and otherwise shared their photos with the world.
Tags: Education, Jobs, moral monday, North Carolina, taxes, voting rights
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on corporate America today to pay its fair share, saying, “At a time when the 1% have demanded so much sacrifice from working people in the name of deficit reduction, we must ask something of big corporations. That means “revenue positive” corporate tax reform that raises significant amounts of new tax revenue.”
Read the rest of the statement below:
We must start by ending all tax incentives for outsourcing jobs overseas, which would raise more than $583 billion in tax revenue over 10 years.
For many years, the AFL-CIO has called for Wall Street and multinational corporations to pay their fair share in taxes to help pay for the investments we need to make in jobs here at home. However we are concerned that several recent proposals for corporate tax reform do not raise nearly enough revenue because they squander huge sums of money on lowering tax rates for profitable Wall Street corporations.
Wall Street has not been asked to contribute a dime in the name of “shared sacrifice,” while working people have already sacrificed far too much. The suggestion that tax reform should let Wall Street and big corporations get away with paying no more than they pay now is offensive. The suggestion that such “revenue neutral” corporate tax reform should be coupled with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits is an obscenity.
We are especially concerned that proposals to lower the corporate tax rate by a specific amount could lead to cutbacks on tax expenditures, such as the domestic production activities deduction, that encourage manufacturing in the United States. Limiting such expenditures could discourage investment, production, and employment here in America even if the corporate tax rate is lowered.
Finally, we reiterate that the AFL-CIO opposes cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits, no matter what form they take and no matter who proposes them.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, budget, Corporate Accountability, Jobs, Richard Trumka, taxes
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with a formula to strengthen Social Security, says rocket scientist Rush Holt. Holt, who is also a U.S. House member from New Jersey and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, says we don’t need to raise the retirement age or cut benefits, just lift the cap on the Social Security tax so millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate as working families. Take a look as he explains it in this video.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: New Jersey, Retirement Security, rush holt, social security, taxes
Emma Godsey writes from our Columbus office.
A lot of people here in Ohio are fed up with the way they’re being treated by Gov. Kasich and the state legislature—but there’s a way to step up and work for justice. Through Working America, people here in Ohio are forming community action teams to focus on the economic issues that are most important to them. As a member Coordinator for Working America, I’ve had the privilege of getting involved with community action team meetings in Franklin County.
Ohio’s community action teams are focused on a few critical issues, including Medicaid and the state budget. Brynette, a community leader in Franklin County, sees accepting expanded federal Medicaid funds as a key issue for Ohio families. “One thing expanded Medicaid funds will do is give full coverage to older adults, specifically senior citizens who are uninsured. Some seniors who need around-the-clock attention will be finally able to afford 24 hour care,” Brynette said. Expanding Medicaid to 600,000 Ohioans will also cover single adults without children, people with disabilities, and low income households. It will also bring billions of dollars into state revenue. Gov. Kasich supports the expansion of Medicaid, so we’re hopeful that we can get to a victory soon.
Where Kasich hasn’t been helpful, though, is on the recently passed state budget, which has a number of flaws that hurt working-class families. When the budget was first introduced, members were horrified to see Gov. Kasich’s proposed tax changes, which would hand the richest 1% $10,000 a year, leaving the working class to pay the difference. Members immediately took action, writing well over 3,000 letters to State legislators to let them know that they’re paying attention to what they did on the budget. They were able to get the word out about the problems with Kasich’s budget by writing letters to their local newspapers, too. With this pushback from members and our allies, we were able to rein in Kasich’s big tax giveaways to the rich by almost half. Another great accomplishment was getting $250 million dollars put back in the education budget.
We’re glad about what we were able to accomplish on the state budget, but we know we have a long way to go—we want to make sure the biggest corporations and the very rich pay their fair share, so that our schools and the services we depend on get the funding they need. If Kasich thinks we’re just going to accept the policies he’s pushing, he’s got another thing coming.
Tags: budget, Health Care, John Kasich, Medicaid, Ohio, tax fairness, taxes
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shatters several bits of conventional wisdom embraced by the media and many in Washington, D.C., including the oft-repeated Republican mantra that lower corporate taxes boost the economy. The analysis found no evidence that changes in the statutory or effective tax rate on corporations are correlated with economic growth.
The report also finds that:
- The corporate tax rate in the United States is not high compared to other countries. While it is true that the United States has the highest tax rate on paper, because of loopholes in the system, including offshoring, few companies pay that rate. The effective corporate tax rate of 27.7% is close to the average of the wealthy countries that are comparable to the United States, with those countries averaging 27.2%.
- The current tax rate in the United States is not high compared to historical levels. The current statutory rate of 35% is lower than the rate of over 50% that was statutory in the 1950s.
- The current rate, either statutory or effective, is not impeding corporate profits. Both before-tax and after-tax corporate profits are at post-World War II highs as a percentage of national income.
The report’s author, Thomas L. Hungerford, argues that the current focus in policy and media circles makes little sense:
Given widespread concerns about federal budget deficits, it seems odd to call for tax changes that lower rates. The putative impetus for these calls is the belief that the statutory corporate income tax rate is too high—placing an excessive burden on U.S. corporations that leads to poor economic performance.
Read the full report.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, Jobs, outsourcing, taxes
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Democratic Congressman Ed Markey and Republican private equity executive Gabriel Gomez are running to become the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.
The special election will be held on Tuesday, June 25, and June 5 is the last day to register to vote.
In local and national news, the coverage of the race has focused on the “horse race” and various things the two candidates have said – not so much on policy. But on issues affecting working families, there’s are huge differences between Markey and Gomez that we wish were making bigger headlines.
1.) Retirement. As a member of Congress, Ed Markey has been a longtime defender of Social Security. When both Republicans and Democrats were considering a plan to change the formula used to determine Social Security benefits to “chained CPI,” Markey opposed it.
“Chained CPI” (CPI stands for “consumer price index”) assumes that when prices go up, consumers will choose a less expensive product. This formula results in a lower “cost of living” estimate because it assumes people need less; using this formula to calculate Social Security is equivalent to a benefit cut.
Markey has said that CPI really stands for “cutting people’s income.”
Republican Gabriel Gomez, on the other hand, supports the “chained CPI” benefit cut, which he announced at an April 10 debate. As the AARP points out, if the government makes this switch for both Social Security and veterans benefits, current and future seniors veterans could lose $146 billion in benefits over 10 years.
2.) Wall Street. Ed Markey voted for the groundbreaking Wall Street reform bill, which ends some of the worst abuses of big banks and corporations (those same banks have since fought tooth and nail to weaken the reform). He also opposes Republican plans that would increase tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas.
Gabriel Gomez, who made his fortune as a private equity executive, has relied heavily on the support of Wall Street and the financial services industry in his run for office. Individuals working in finance have given Gomez’s campaign $278,000, 52 percent of his total campaign contributions. Bain Capital employees have given Gomez more than $12,000.
Not surprisingly, Gomez’s policy positions closely mirror that of the financial industry. He said that “onerous taxes” and “excessive regulation” are obstacles to job growth. He opposes raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and has attacked the Wall Street reform law.
3.) Health Care. The candidates differ starkly on the issue of Medicare. Ed Markey opposes cuts to Medicare, while Gabriel Gomez has said he favors raising the Medicare eligibility age. On his website and in his public statements, Gomez refers to Medicare as an “entitlement,” not as a guaranteed benefit.
Gomez hasn’t said at what age seniors should be eligible for Medicare, but a popular proposal would raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. According to Roosevelt Institute fellow Matt Stoller, that would mean that 5 million 65 and 66 year olds would not be able to get Medicare coverage for at least a year, and 7 million would not be eligible for at least a month. Even with Obamacare fully implemented and every state accepting Medicaid expansion, this policy change would leave at least 200,000 seniors without health insurance, primarily those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Those seniors would be denied the earned benefit that they paid for over the course of their lives.
Remember, the special election is on Tuesday, June 25, and the last day to register to vote in this election is Wednesday, June 5. If you live in Massachusetts or know someone who does, please share these three crucial pieces of information about where Markey and Gomez stand.
Tags: ed markey, gabriel gomez, Health Care, Jobs, Massachusetts, Medicare, social security, taxes, Wall Street