Wilmington—In the midst of an unprecedented uprising of low-wage worker strikes at Walmart and at fast food restaurants in Wilmington and nationwide, Delaware again took up the fight for fair wages for fast food workers. Members of the New Castle County Economic Development Sub-Committee today held a special hearing where fast food workers, economists, labor and community leaders explored the hefty cost to DE taxpayers wrought by fast food companies’ low wages.
“Simply because we refuse to let low-paid workers starve if they cannot afford food, or remain sick if they cannot afford health care, billion-dollar companies like McDonald’s have decided they have no responsibility to pay workers in Delaware a living wage,” said Jack Temple, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “Whether you eat at McDonald’s or not, the company’s low-wage business model is costing the public billions every year – that’s not only economically unsustainable, it’s morally unacceptable.”
The hearing comes just weeks after researchers at the University of California, Berkeley released a report showing that low-wage fast food jobs cost U.S. taxpayers $7 billion every year. In August, fast-food workers in Wilmington and 60 other cities across the country went on strike demanding $15 per hour and a union, so they don’t have to rely on public assistance.
“I am barely making ends meet. I get public assistance and so do many of my co-workers. With the money we make, I don’t know how any of us would make it without food stamps and Medicaid,” said fast food worker, Candy Crippen. “I work hard at a job that’s not easy despite what people think. I go in early, stay late and fill in for others. All I want is to earn enough to survive.”
Six weeks after Wilmington fast food workers made history by joining the nation’s largest ever fast food strike, community leaders took the opportunity to address how fast-food companies’ low wages and lack of benefits force workers to rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance.
“The fast food industry relies on taxpayers to subsidize the wages of their employees instead of simply giving workers fair pay,” said Ezra Temko of the Delaware chapter of Americans for Democratic Action. “It’s time to hold fast food companies accountable for the negative impact this has on our community here in New Castle County.”
“We know that the good jobs provided by Chrysler and GM are not coming back anytime soon. But there is a lot we can do together to turn the service jobs we do have, into good jobs,” said Daisy Cruz, director, 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic District.
Fast-food is a $200 billion a year industry. The median wage for core front-line workers at fast-food restaurants nationally is $8.69 an hour. Only 13 percent of the jobs provide health benefits. According to NELP, the average Delaware fast food workers earns an estimated $206 per week or $10,695 per year, based on a 24-hour work week which is the national average.
Community groups called on New Castle County to take action by sending a letter and passing a resolution demanding that the CEOs of fast food companies pay a living wage and respect workers’ rights to organize.
“We ask that New Castle County Council investigate the cost of the of fast food business model to DE taxpayers,” said Darlene Battle, director of the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement. “We ask that New Castle County Council explore direct action that County Council can take to directly support workers in their call for $15 an hour and a union.”
DE Fast Food Forward is a movement of DE fast food workers, and supporters from faith, labor and community groups, who are fighting to raise wages and gain rights at work. It is part of the national movement of low-wage workers fighting for a better future.