Paltry minimum wage hurts everybody


When a company pays its full-time workers only minimum wage, it's bad for the employees, and it's bad for taxpayers, too.

That's the thrust behind a recent report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, which focuses on wages in the fast-food industry; local social justice groups are trying to draw attention to the report's findings. The report says that low-wage fast-food workers receive approximately $7 billion in public benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, and temporary assistance.

A few local social justice groups held a press conference this afternoon regarding the report. Senator Ted O'Brien, a Democrat, explained the underlying problem simply: even when people work full-time at minimum wage, they can't afford necessities like food and clothing.

This year, the State Legislature passed an increase in New York's minimum wage; over the next three years it'll rise from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. Though O'Brien voted for the law, he says that the increase doesn't happen fast enough or go high enough. Senate Democrats unsuccessfully pushed for a higher wage.

Luis Torres, social justice coordinator for First Unitarian Church, said that fast-food workers in 60 cities went on strike earlier this year to protest their low wages.

And Colin O'Malley, organizing director for Metro Justice, called on the State Legislature to investigate the way that the state is "subsidizing poverty wages" at fast-food restaurants.