Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fast Facts on Fast Food Work in Wisconsin

With fast food workers in many parts of the country engaging in work stoppages today, I decided to dig through Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data to see what I could learn about their wages. Unfortunately, most of the BLS employment categories, with the exception of cooks, don’t clearly distinguish fast food workers from others in the food services industry. Nevertheless, the most current BLS figures, which are from May 2012, help illustrate why workers for fast food chains are protesting their wages. 

There were 6,950 fast food cooks in Wisconsin, with the following earnings:
  • A median or typical wage of $8.53 per hour;
  • An average (mean) wage of $8.92 per hour (3.6% below the national ave.); and
  • Mean annual earnings of $18,560 per year (based on the rather unrealistic assumption that each worker is employed full-time for 52 weeks each year).
There were 59,950 other Wisconsinites employed in food preparation and serving (including fast food), with the following earnings:
  • A median (typical) wage of $8.65 per hour;
  • An average (mean) wage of $8.83 per hour (2.6% below the national ave.); and
  • Mean annual earnings of $18,360 per year (assuming full-time work for 52 weeks each year).
There were almost 229,000 Wisconsinites employed in all food preparation and service related jobs, who had:
  • A median (typical) wage of $8.89 per hour;
  • An average (mean) wage of $9.65 per hour (2.3% below the national ave.); and
  • Mean annual earnings of $20,060 per year (assuming full-time work for 52 weeks each year).
A new Wisconsin Budget Project issue brief examines what the policy choices in the last two state biennial budgets mean for low wage workers, such as those in the fast food industry and other food services jobs.  

Next week I’ll examine how BadgerCare enrollment statistics help to dispel the misconception that fast food workers are primarily teenagers who just need a little pocket money. In fact, DHS statistics demonstrate that thousands of them are parents with dependent children.

Jon Peacock

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