Nearly one in five Americans employed in the private sector has a food industry job, and according to a new study, the vast majority aren’t being paid a living wage.
The Food Chain Workers Alliance surveyed 700 workers and employees in five main areas of the food industry — production, processing, distribution, retail and service — and found that 86 percent of them earn subminimum, poverty or low wages, even though almost half work more than 40 hours a week.
In addition, fully 14 percent of such workers need food stamps just to feed themselves, and more than three-quarters have no health insurance. And this will give you pause next time you order a cheeseburger: since many employees also don’t get paid sick days, more than half have come to work when they’re ill.
So what can we do to change things? The report suggests government intervention to increase the minimum wage and guarantee that workers have health benefits and the right to organize, and adds, “Consumers can support businesses that are providing livable wages and benefits, and speak out against those that are not.”