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Report On 'Public Cost Of Low-Wage Jobs' Sparks Response In St. Louis

Fast food workers and supporters held a press conference today in response to a recent reportfrom the University of California-Berkeley.

The report stated that the low wages of fast-food workers cost the public $7 billion a year in public assistance.

Gathered in front of an area McDonald’s, employees took turns talking about their experiences struggling to raise families and covering medical costs on their salaries.

Among those in attendance was University of Missouri–St. Louis associate professor of history Gerda Ray, who explained that of the $7 billion, Missouri taxpayers are subsidizing fast-food workers at a cost of $146 million a year.

“People have this silly idea that fast food workers are just here for six months – these are [their] jobs,” she said. “Most fast food workers are in their 20s and 30s, two-thirds of them are the heads of household, and two-thirds of them are parents. These are people who need and deserve to make a living wage.”

Representative Jake Hummel, Democratic minority floor leader of the Missouri House of Representatives argued in favor of wage increases, saying that tax breaks and substandard wages for workers was not the answer.

“We have to create a living wage where workers can actually go out and not have to work 80, 90 hours a week – and let’s be honest, that’s if they give you 40 hours a week at this job, and we know that’s not the case,” he said.

The STL Can’t Survive on 7.35 Campaignhas been active in protesting for higher wages and the right to unionize since May. In August, fast food workers across the country staged walkouts and rallied for a wage increase to $15 an hour. 

Follow Erin Williams on Twitter: @STLPR_Erin