Study Says Lower Fast Food Wages Mean Higher Taxes for Missouri

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COLUMBIA - Missouri taxpayers have to pay $146 million every year to cover the cost of fast-food workers who rely on government assistance programs, according to a study from the University of California - Berkeley, which came out Tuesday. In response to the study, Columbia fast-food workers, clergy, and community leaders held a news conference outside Taco Bell on Nifong.

"More than half of industry jobs pay less than a living wage," Reverend Molly Housh-Gordon said. "They force their workers to be on public assistance to meet their very basic needs."

According to Housh-Gordon, 46 percent of Missouri fast-food workers are on a government assistance program. One Taco Bell worker, who works in management, said he only makes $7.70 an hour. James Brown said it isn't enough to support his family.

"Any man or woman working, in society, shouldn't have to survive off of government assistance," Brown said. "As of right now, I don't have health insurance, life insurance, or anything of that nature as far as my family goes."

According to the study, the fast-food industry makes roughly $200 billion a year. It also said the median wage for core front-line workers at fast-food restaurants nationally is $8.69 an hour.    

One Missouri taxpayer said he was surprised by the large amount of taxes he has to pay.

"I guess it never really occurred to me that so many fast-food workers needed social welfare," taxpayer Jon Hummel said. "If you could fix that problem that would obviously save us a lot of money and it could go to other areas of need in the state."

 McDonald's of the Heartland spokesperson Neil Getzlow sent KOMU 8 News a statement about the study. It reads, "As with most small businesses, wages are based on local wage laws and are competitive to similar jobs in that market. We also provide training and professional development opportunities to anyone that works in one of our restaurants. "

In September, protesters in 60 cities across the United States responded to low wages by making their voices heard. One of those protests happened in Columbia at the same location as Tuesday's news conference.