Report: American Food Industry Workers Aren’t Treated So Great

If you work anywhere in the American food industry — from farming to fast food, slaughterhouse to warehouse — a new report seems to indicate you’re not being treat that well. The Food Chain Workers Alliance interviewed around 700 workers and employers in production, processing, distribution, retail and services and came up with some startling conclusions.

Researchers found that food sector workers outnumber other big industries like healthcare, education and manufacturing, and that they produce $1.8 trillion in goods and services per year, more than 13% of our gross domestic product, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Even with all that responsibility, only 1 in 10 of those workers earn a livable wage, and most don’t get basic benefits from employers or have a lot of chances for promotions. The report says workers could be in a situation where they’re forced to operate in conditions of high stress and little payback. Not ideal at all.

A couple key findings:

• Median wage for a food industry worker is $9.65 per hour, and while 8.3% of all American workers are on food stamps, 13.8% of food industry employees are on them.
• 83% report their employers don’t offer health insurance, and 3 in 10 use the emergency room as primary care.
• 79% don’t get paid sick days or aren’t sure if they do, and 3 in 10 don’t always get a lunch break.
• 81% have never received a promotion, while “Minorities and immigrants face especially high levels of discrimination and segregation and rarely advance beyond the lowest-paying positions.”

Few American food industry workers are treated well, report says [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. That guy. says:

    “79% don’t get paid sick days or aren’t sure if they do

    This seems very telling to me. At first I was like, “How could someone not know this?”

    Then I realized that in those cases, work being so scarse, some of those folks are probably afraid to even call out sick, fearing they will get fired and just replaced by one of the many unemployed.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      When I worked food service, there was a night where I tried to call in. I was running a fever and I told them so, but they told me I had to come in. I came in, with a thermometer, and showed them my temperature, told them to feel my forehead if they wanted, and if they required me to work, I’d be calling the health department myself.

      I didn’t have to work that night. We didn’t have paid sick time, but if I hadn’t gone in and proved to them I was sick, I probably would have been fired or had my hours reduced. I wasn’t in the habit of calling in sick – maybe 3 times a year or so. I needed the money and to get the money, I needed to work, unlike the high school kids that would call out so they could party or whatever.

    • VintageLydia says:

      Exactly. I worked retail, which isn’t food service but has a lot in common with it, and we had sick days if you were full time. You did NOT want to take a sick day. If you were sick, you came in anyway and they’ll send you home if you’re vomiting at the register otherwise you’ll be considered “undependable.” Some of my bosses were better than others about it, but corporate didn’t even give us enough hours to properly staff our store so having any unexpected gap in coverage was a huge deal and it’s hard to convince people making minimum wage with no opportunity of advancement to go above and beyond.

      • incident_man says:

        You must’ve worked for Sears or K-Mart. Sounds a lot like how they operate.

        • VintageLydia says:

          Nope, a pet supply store, but everyone I know who ever worked retail or front-line food service (from fast food to fine dining) was in a similar situation as me with a few very rare exceptions.

      • That guy. says:

        I worked a customer service job, in a phone bank. I had run out of my alloted sick days (my fault). I had come down with pink eye, which was very irritating, but I was able to do my job. My concern was I worked within 5 feet from two pregnant women. From what I gather, it would be quite bad if they caught it (and they knew that!). I had a doctor’s note, as well as the visibly pink eye, and voiced my public health concern to managment. They wouldn’t budge. The pregnant women told them to send me home as well, and still they wouldn’t budge. They had to follow things by the book! No room for logic.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I imagine there are also many situations where sick time accrual is very complicated and designed to deny eligibility. At my very first job, you had to work 1,000 hours in a 6-month period to be considered permanent.

      But even then, it had to be 1,000 hours between Jan – Jun and another 1,000 hours between July – Dec, with no deviation. Overtime hours didn’t count and mandatory furloughs in June and Dec kept most people at 900 hours for these blocks. If you managed to hit 1,000 hours, you’d be eligible for full time status the following January (after a written request) and would lose the status if you fell below the threshold.

      The system was so confusing and so arbitrary, nobody really knew what they were eligible for. Sick time hours were also done on an accrual basis (0.42/month), which resulted in many fractions of paid time off. Asking too many questions was also a good way of getting negative attention from management.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Yeah, and it’s really nice to think that SICK PEOPLE ARE MAKING YOUR FOOD. That alone should be a public health crisis of massive proportions.

      • LabGnome says:

        It is very common from what I have heard. Most of my friends are in other fields but almost all of them had a similar story to tell about their days in the food industry. Usually along the lines of them calling in sick and having their boss tell them to show up or be fired.

        I also think it is common in non-food related fields too. The consequences to consumers are obviously more serious in the food services industry though.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          I much prefer the situation in parts of Europe, where food-related business face extremely heavy fines if they force sick workers to choose between not working while a health hazard or getting paid.

  2. Lethe says:

    My curser was hovering over the first word in the link, and for a second I wondered who on earth wrote that article and thought that these were good statistics.

  3. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    I certainly was never offered health insurance in any of my past full-time food service jobs.

    • Lucky225 says:

      That’s because Fast Food isn’t supposed to be FULL TIME (facepalm)

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        I didn’t say “fast-food,” but I’ve never heard of this rule that fast-food isn’t supposed to be full-time. So, if you work in fast-food, it’s not supposed to be your only job? Because I was always taught that you take the job that pays the bills and live within your means. If you live outside of your means, that’s when you take a second job.

        • VintageLydia says:

          Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Hadn’t you heard? Service industry workers aren’t worth the dog shit on the sidewalk outside ;)

      • exconsumer says:

        That’s not true at all. The majority of fast food joints will happily hire you as full time. They prefer someone with that kind of availability. Then, they’ll schedule you 38 hours a week to prevent you from qualifying for full time benefits.

        This fairy tale about fast food jobs being part time only for teenage honor students; it makes you feel better, but that’s not who’s making your food.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Because there are so many available jobs. Available positions outnumber available workers, we just have double-digit unemployment across all sectors because 15%+ of the population is too busy working in the glamorous field of full-time fast food.

  4. nffcnnr says:

    That photo taken at Waffle House unit #1422, which is probably the best one ever.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      At first I was thought, “How could he know that? Don’t they all look pretty much the same? Is he a wizard?” Then I saw your photo credit. That’s an awesome pic.

  5. Lyn Torden says:

    But, we all want cheap food, right?

    • exconsumer says:

      Not if this is how we get it, no. I’d prefer to pay more if it meant a better standard of living for everyone. If we did it right, the increased wages would lead to more business/sales for others, and we’d be able to afford it.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I’d happily pay more so people don’t have to be commoditized, but really the owners would pocket the extra money and the people would still be treated like shit.

  6. Auron says:

    Get a better job if you don’t like the conditions.


    • PurplePenquin says:

      Get a union if you don’t like the working conditions.

      not /s

    • alana0j says:

      …you have no idea how many people say that when I complain about my job but they’re being serious. I have worked 10 hour shifts with no break. I catch shit if I call out. The managers very obviously play favorites. But being a pizza girl is all I can do for now, so I put up with it.

  7. mikedt says:

    Given the current job market and the widespread loss of the union jobs non-college educated people use to get, this trend is only going to increase. And with a huge part of the population of the “don’t like it get a new job” mindset (until this hits them) I don’t see it improving until unemployment falls to the 3-4% range.

    • poco says:

      I work in food service and have a bachelor’s degree. So do roughly half my coworkers. This isn’t a matter of education, it’s a matter of economics.

  8. Bsamm09 says:

    “Food Chain Workers Alliance” — hmmm….why don’t you just comment on the new study by the Ku Klux Klan that states that all non-whites are inferior in every way.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Instead of attacking the source, why don’t you try disputing the data they present?

      Are you trying to say food service workers are making $20/hr with full benefits, but the greedy “Food Chain Workers Alliance” is trying to squeeze more out of McDonalds?

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        I would want to know the actual details of the poll they conducted. 700 people to try and cover several different parts of the industry seem to be a very small sample.

        But lets go down their bullet points…
        1. Median wage is nearly $10 an hour. So quite a bit above minimum wage. And why are they on food stamps? How does it break down by age group/martial status? I would expect someone who is single working in the factory isn’t on food stamps while someone working at McDonalds with a family of five might be.
        2. Of the percent that don’t offer healthcare, how many of them aren’t offered but are full-time? Most part-time jobs don’t offer much in the way of benefits. As for the ER usage, how many of them have inquired about a primary care doctor?
        3. How many actually do not get sick days. Not knowing doesn’t count. And lunch breaks… how many are working long enough hours to qualify for a lunch break (IIRC, its six hours under federal law)
        4. How long has the average person surveyed worked in their position? If the average is 7 months, well duh you aren’t going to get a promotion. As for their view about discrimination, is it due to factors other than being a minority or immigrant? Perhaps seniority (or the current manager has been there for a decade) or having a different fluent language than the majority of the staff? Are there reasons that are not “bad” to account for this?

        • who? says:

          1. Federal Minimum wage is $7.25/hour, and nearly half the states have a minimum wage that’s higher than that. I would expect that, since this survey seems to lump everyone together that there are a few people (shift leaders and such) that are making more, but since the median is only $2 more than the federal minimum, that the bulk of workers are making within $1 of minimum wage. When I worked in food service nearly everyone with a year or two of experience was over minimum, but nearly everyone, no matter how experienced or skilled, was within $3/hour of minimum, unless they were in management.
          2. Not having healthcare is not having healthcare, regardless of part time or full time status. The problem is that most places won’t offer full time work, *especially* if there’s a corporate policy to offer health insurance to full time workers. Again, when I worked in food service, I worked a couple of jobs where health insurance was available, but you had to work full time for a year before you qualified. The trouble was, only the managers were given enough shifts to be full time. Most everyone else worked 6 days per week, but only got 20-30 hours, often by working split shifts. As for using the ER, when a primary care appointment is north of $150, how many people who make $9.65 are going to go to the doctor until they’re on death’s door? Free or reduced cost clinic? Those haven’t existed since we got rid of all the government “waste” in the 1980’s.
          3. If they don’t know whether or not they get sick days, it’s probably because they don’t get them.
          4. Agree about the promotions, mostly. I don’t think there’s really a conspiracy. The problem is more that there are very few higher level jobs to be promoted into, and those tend to be filled from the outside, rather than by internal promotions. The vast majority of the work is low skill, low wage work.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            WRT Health care: The majority of non-union jobs only offer the shittiest of the shitty medical plans. When you’re making $9/hr, you’re not going to be able to afford $100+ a month for the plan, let alone the $50+ copays and the deductibles.

      • Bsamm09 says:

        You make a great point and made me realize that me analogy was a false one. Maybe not false but disingenuous. I don’t think that these workers make $20/hr with full benefits and I would typically agree with their findings too.

        What I should have said is that these jobs are generally the lowest of the low paying and depending on who they interview, one could make theses results say almost anything. Lumping in restaurant servers and crop pickers, whether legal or illegal, can definitely skew the results especially when they get into the wages.

        This could be done with any industry whose jobs are very diversified.

        I did attack them instead of trying to dispute what they said as I don’t really put too much stock into organizations who use the phrase “based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice” in their mission statement. Their ideas of “justice” are usually not mine.

  9. CrazyEyed says:

    • “Median wage for a food industry worker is $9.65 per hour, and while 8.3% of all American workers are on food stamps, 13.8% of food industry employees are on them”

    Sorry, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to flip burgers, microwave items or toss onion rings in a frier. Anyone who has gone through a drivethru knows how easily those working at fast food joints can even screw this up.

    • “83% report their employers don’t offer health insurance, and 3 in 10 use the emergency room as primary care.”

    Unfortunately, you don’t have to be in food service to experience this. Any contract worker, temp or self employed person knows that its not easy getting affordable health insurance. While McDonalds may not offer the best salary, I’m sure the benefits are better than a local place.

    • “79% don’t get paid sick days or aren’t sure if they do, and 3 in 10 don’t always get a lunch break”

    Aren’t sure if they do? Just goes to show you the intelligence/ignorance level of those employed at those jobs. Granted some policies are complicated and arbitrary, I still stand by my response. As far as lunch breaks go, tough sh*t if you are a part-timer or do not work the required hours. For those who do, their employer is violating labor laws. This isn’t a valid argument for food service workers unless they work under the table. At that point, I’d rather enjoy the tax benefits than worry about my lunch breaks.

    • “81% have never received a promotion, while “Minorities and immigrants face especially high levels of discrimination and segregation and rarely advance beyond the lowest-paying positions.”

    Welcome to the real world. I’m sure every position has similar statistics. Those who go above and beyond and those who ass kiss get the promotions. Go anywhere and you’ll see this. Same goes for descrimination and segregation. Not saying it’s right however.

    Disclaimer – My first job was in food service and my current job does not offer health insurance.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Then why are you being an apologist for shitty employee treatment???

      • CrazyEyed says:

        I’m not. Shitty treatment, lack of wages and/or benefits isn’t bound to fast food joints. That was my point in addition to pointing out some of the winners who flip burgers.

      • Cicadymn says:

        Because that’s how the world works. We’re not a perfect and flawless society that dictates that even the people who’s jobs are to flip hamburgers are worthy of high pay. Jobs like those require so little knowledge that anybody off the street can apply for them with basically no education.

        Someone who has no knowledge just isn’t going to be paid as someone who has the knowledge and training. I’ve worked in shitty food industry jobs before, while I was still in high school and college. Unless you own a restaurant I don’t believe those are meant to be permanent jobs for people. You shouldn’t settle in to Mickey D’s for the long haul. Continue to improve yourself and learn and get out of there asap into a job you like and pays well. (and even then you shouldn’t ever be done learning and growing as a person and professional). Stagnation and apathy are things everyone needs to avoid when it comes to their own skills and learning.

        The only reason someone is stuck in a position like that is their own lack of motivation for anything better. Sorry, that’s just the truth.

        • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

          “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

          That’s a fact. Some people can’t get far enough ahead to have any real options of even switching jobs. It’s not black and white, so that not “just how it is.”

        • DWMILLER says:


        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          Do you think the people that make food possible are not deserving of a living wage? I’m not saying a burger flipper ought to be able to retire onto a summer yacht during a paid leave, but they at least should be able to, you know, feed and shelter and clothe themselves.

        • humperdinck says:


    • Jules Noctambule says:

      How interesting that you assume food industry = fast food only. I don’t see any indication of that in the article. My last food industry job was as a pastry chef in an upscale restaurant; pretty different skill set required than your average job at McDonald’s.

      • VintageLydia says:

        Especially since the article made it a point that “food industry” meant everyone from the farmers to the front line workers INCLUDING chefs. A friend of mine was a chef in a well respected restaurant and never got any benefits and was paid pretty terribly. He works in IT now.

        • CrazyEyed says:

          Yes but to a pastry chef, the only promotion is what? Manager, Ownwer, Head Chef? With no facts, I can guarantee very few are using food stamps. Most would make higher wages than most staff in the same location. Like I said, the stats are skewed BECAUSE of fast food jobs. In addition, this article doesn’t take into account those who take up food service jobs as a part time gig or to supplement another secondary job.

          • VintageLydia says:

            I’m talking about a chef with very expensive culinary school bills with desirable skills in his industry making barely more than minimum wage with no benefits in an expensive restaurant. It wasn’t a super high end affair but it certainly wasn’t a line cook at Ruby Tuesday, either, and this isn’t unusual in the food industry. Fast food and field pickers may be scewing some of the results, but not as much as you seem to think.

            • RvLeshrac says:

              I would be *EXTREMELY* surprised if even the tiniest majority of “accredited” chefs made more than $10-12/hr after spending $10-20k on school.

              What people like the TC here fail to understand is that they’d be shit out of luck if all these people suddenly quit their jobs.

              “Unskilled” is also bullshit. The Taco Bell POS has 200-300 keys, combinations of which have to be entered in specific orders. The menu has hundreds of thousands of possible combinations of ingredients, and they’re expected to prepare items from memory because checking the charts takes too long. The fact that they’re able to get 99% of orders out the door correctly is mind-boggling, especially at high-volume stores where they might do 500+ orders an hour.

              That’s not even taking into consideration the fact that many of these workers have second and third foodservice jobs where they have to learn the same volume of information.

      • CrazyEyed says:

        Yeah but if you were a pastry chef, odds are you had education, experience and probably more benefits than the person working the register or placing people at their tables. If you were a pastry chef, I doubt you were using food stamps to supplement your food purchases at home because your wage was above the median. Although this article speaks of Food Service and not simply fast food or drive throughs, we all know the less than desired fast food positions are the ones skewing these statistics.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:


    • exconsumer says:

      Just keep telling yourself this kind of thing, and it will protect you from the hardships and mitigating circumstances that cause people to take jobs that aren’t so great.

      In fact, if you concentrate hard enough, I bet you can will some employer provided healthcare into existence for yourself.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      “Sorry, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to flip burgers, microwave items or toss onion rings in a frier. Anyone who has gone through a drivethru knows how easily those working at fast food joints can even screw this up.”

      Ahhhh, you’ve never worked drive-thru. When I did my time at Wendy’s, our store made about three orders per sixty seconds at lunchtime rush. (We were blazing fast.) I was back register, so I had to take orders and payments for up to four orders on screen at a time, keep everyone’s stupid condiments straight, make “emergency” salads, and do all that at once, while being constantly distracted/interrupted for several hours. Contrast that with my current job where I just do some light data entry/creative work on software. I concentrated and used more brainwork by far at Wendy’s than I currently do, yet I make about triple the wages and have benefits.

      So, you assertion that drive-thru is simple and doesn’t require intelligence is a load of hogwash.

      • CrazyEyed says:

        Not saying a “drivethu” doesn’t require brain power, I’m saying flipping burgers and tossing fries in greese doesn’t. My comment wasn’t a blanket statement to all fast food joints because I do know this article was about Food Service. I was simply trying to compare food service jobs to today’s job market, while also pointing out that food service has a higher propensity to employ young, inexperienced, or thas than skilled individuals. Sorry for the offense but I’ve held 3 food service jobs myself (concessions and a servicing job) and I know that a high school kid can simply get hired with a working licsence as opposed to a desk job that requires a little more experience and or skill. And yes I do know there are buffoons working desk jobs.

        • CrazyEyed says:

          I do realize my spelling is off today.

        • exconsumer says:

          That’s quite a bit of cognitive dissonance there, isn’t it? You’ve held them yourself, and yet can’t imagine that there might be people who take these jobs who are not unskilled, unmotivated, or stupid. I don’t imagine you see yourself as such. I’ve had a few foodservice jobs myself, and I certainly don’t.

          So, while it’s possible that you and I are the specialest of snowflakes, I think it’s also possible that many share our experiences, and, like us, aren’t such horrid creatures. Maybe they should get a square deal.

        • Kuri says:

          Have you ever done any of the things you’re talking about?

    • who? says:

      Way to blame the working poor for their problems. They must all be stupid and illiterate.

      It’s one thing to work a drive through to get a little extra cash in high school. It’s quite another to try to support a family that way. Most food service jobs today go to adults who are trying to support themselves and their families, not high school kids. Teenage hiring is at historic lows.

    • Jerem43 says:

      Actually, it is the small mom and pop places that are more likely to not offer benefits. Chain stores have the benefit of the corporate parents that in place health care programs. Burger King Corporation offer’s its franchises a health and dental plan, while not great, it is better than nothing.

      And as a BK manager, we don’t want idiots who flip burgers – they’re the ones that get people killed. We want people that pay attention and do their jobs correctly to prevent things like under cooked food and improperly cleaned dishes – things that will cause food poisoning.

      • exconsumer says:

        They may have them, but good luck actually getting them. Take a look at any franchise’s books; You’ll see people scheduled for 38 hours or 36 hours or whatever number disqualifies them for those benefits.

    • sparrowmint says:

      You like to think you have it all figured out. Yet you’re not even aware of the fact that fewer than half the states in the country require ANY lunch breaks at all, and fewer than ten states require that employees be given rest breaks. That’s the state of labour law in the wonderful United States of America, the absolute joke that it is, and people like you are stupid enough to defend it.

  10. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    Recruits for the logistics wing of the Alliance!

  11. Blueskylaw says:

    “The report says workers could be in a situation where they’re forced to operate in conditions of high stress and little payback.”

    That’s funny, CEO’s of major corporations also complain about these same working conditions and can run their companies into the ground yet they get paid GINORMOUS sums of money.

    • Talmonis says:

      Oh, but they’re better than us remember? It’s just a matter of the right “breeding”. Burn Rome, make them pay. /visagothface

  12. BurtReynolds says:

    You can easily expand this to other industries. Retail for one. It is also slowly creeping into what have typically been considered to be “good” jobs with educated workforces.

    Of course working as a salesman at an appliance store used to be a decent gig too if you go back far enough.

  13. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    What? No Scott Walker hit piece today? Surely you could have worked that in here somewhere.

  14. Danielle74 says:

    I’ve never worked in fast food, but I did work at the front desk at a hotel – a low paying, hourly job that doesn’t offer sick days. Since I lived paycheck to paycheck, I couldn’t afford to be sick. One day though, I came into work with the flu and quickly realized I just couldn’t do it. I told my manager and told me I couldn’t go home until I found someone to come in to replace me. Then he went back to his office and left me alone at the front desk, to handle customers in between running to the restroom to throw up and calling my coworkers to find someone to cover my shift.

    Thankfully, I’ve move on to bigger and better things.

  15. dolemite says:

    I worked fast food at Hardees in college. The job wasn’t *too* bad, but the head manager made life hell for everyone. The 2 assistant managers were great. The employees had a good attitude and worked well together. Then the store manager would show up and start belittling people to make herself feel better apparently. She basically drove off all the good employees and would be stuck with the ones that simply didn’t give a crap and ignored her (and also didn’t give a crap about the work they were doing or the company).

  16. tungstencoil says:

    I worked a variety of food service over the years, from first job as dishwasher to last job as bartender. Was a manager even at one point.

    Facts are facts, and it sucks, but…

    The majority of people who are working in the lower-paid/no-benefit food jobs fall into one of two categories:

    1. They’re temporary/part-time/second-job people. High schoolers, moms, retirees, folks looking for some extra cash. The job affords them flexibility and ease of moving in/out of that workforce. The trade-off is a lower wage and limited/no benefits.

    2. They’re unskilled and not suited to much more. Frankly, my opinion is that if you’re not skilled enough for a better paying, better-benefits job, too bad.

    Before anyone flames, please note I said ‘majority’.

    Best example I can think of: my company occasionally hires temps to do data-entry style work. It’s pretty boring, but we pay well (about $2/hour more than food service), have a cushy work environment, and allow the workers to wear headphones and listen to music. We use temps because we only do this work a couple of times a year.

    We recently switched temp firms; most of the employees from them we’ve had tell us about the other food factory jobs they’ve had in town. They sound awful.

    Then, we get them in front of the computer. The difficulty level is literally on par with “watch 4 hours of video and match video events against a report” or “look at this picture and type in the letters and numbers you see [not as hard as a captcha]”.

    Guess what? We get people who review 4 hours of video in 2.5 hours (not kidding) and then swear they didn’t skip any. We get people who think if they just randomly type in characters we won’t figure that out, and then deny that they did that.

    We’ve cycled through – no joke – about 30 people in our first month, before we switched temp agencies. Yeah, the agency sucked, but these people *are* out there and reflect my memories of the segment of lower-paid workers that viewed the fast-food line as a permanent career. Mind you, we paid non-trivially more than the food factory, so you’d think we’d have people busting over one-another to do a good job. Sorry, if that’s the extent of your skill level and contribution to a company, why would you expect more?

    Once we switched back to our old agency, we did.

  17. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    News flash: Employees get treated like shit in this country. Film at 11.

  18. Snowball2 says:

    And yet we wonder why (in this blog even) we don’t get top-notch service from these front line people.

  19. Rifter says:

    I’m kind of curious what the norm is, for age range. How many of these people are kids living at home? How many are kids going to school (and get insurance through their college), etc. Food services, in most ways, is pretty entry level. You do it, until you go elsewhere for a career.

    • dks64 says:

      It depends. Some people make a career out of it. In the restaurant industry, some people make enough to pay their bills and then some. In the restaurant I work at now, you have to be 18 to start as a hostess. All of the servers are adults (over 21), many have kids or are paying for college. Many live on their own and a few of my coworkers support their entire family with their paycheck (kids and mortgage).

  20. dks64 says:

    I’ve worked in the food industry for 10 years now. The best company I ever worked for was In-N-Out burger. They treat their employees great and make them feel appreciated and respected. Employees get holiday pay, vacation pay, trips to theme parks for meeting sales goals (went to Disneyland twice with catered gourmet food and we got a $75 gift card), Christmas gifts, and more. The last restaurant I worked in before this one was HORRIBLE. I never got breaks (they would threaten money loss if we did) and the management was completely okay with sexual harassment from the cooks. The restaurant I work at now, I like, but feel like I’m a dime a dozen. They’re write up happy for the STUPIDEST things. I work my butt off and went through very intense training, it shocks me when restaurants have no problem getting rid of hard working people.

    I don’t get vacation or sick pay now. My company does offer health care, but the enrollment period is VERY small (once a year). The only time I missed my dinner break is when we were just too busy and it was impossible to give the servers breaks (got an extra hour pay). We don’t get our 10 minute breaks though, only one 30, even if we work 10 hours.

    My relationship with my job is love-hate. It has its pros and its cons. It pays my bills and will help me get through college soon. I do love my coworkers and many of the customers. It’s not all bad, but overall, the article is right.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Wow, that’s awesome. Every time I go to In-N-Out (only when I’m in Arizona; we don’t have it here, sadly), the employees are FANTASTIC. The place is spotless. I wonder how many of them worked really awful food jobs before they went there and are happy as a clam now. It makes me feel better about eating there. I don’t like to spend money at places that treat workers like shit.

  21. fearuncertaintydoubt says:

    This isn’t anything unique to food industry, it is something which is present in all industries which employ unskilled/semi-skilled labor. Where you can take someone with nothing else but basic literacy, 2 arms, 2 legs, and 8th-grade English, and have them functional and productive in a month. The work that the corporate overlords at Wal-Mart, Target, Wendy’s, etc. do to make those jobs as idiot-proof as possible means that workers are disposable. In a high-unemployment environment, it means that employers have the upper hand and can exploit that to limit wages, benefits, flexibility, etc. and generally create an environment that grinds people down. Who cares if it does? There’s plenty more plebes available.

    The question is, if someone does something productive and contributes their labor, even if it is unskilled, should they 1) make a truly living wage, 2) have some security against illness, injury, etc.? The free-market ideologues would say no, no one is “entitled” to that. It’s a propaganda tactic to shift the focus to lazy stupid people who just want something handed to them. Suddenly it’s a moral issue to deny unskilled workers enough money to feed their families.

    This is part of why productivity, profits, and economic output has increased for decades, yet real wages have fallen. Improvements in technology, logistics, the shift from manufacturing-sector jobs to service-sector jobs, market consolidation, and the sprawl of corporate giants have made it possible to extract large profits while using low-end labor to serve just about every aspect of modern life.

    We’re reaching a breaking point, though, where the forces which are squeezing ever more out of the American worker for no additional benefit (to the worker) are hitting rock bottom. People are getting sub-subsistence wages with no benefits and indentured-servant conditions and there’s ever more pressure (often via the stock market) to suck more and more blood out. Costco actually has to resist pressure from stock analysts who complain that they treat their workers too well, because they pay more than minimum wage and have some decent benefits! This trend is essentially unsustainable. OWS was a revolt. Witness the anti-austerity riots in Europe. In the US we’ve had austerity through allowing exploitation of workers. It will boil over in a larger scale eventually. When the majority of people have no security, none/not enough health insurance, little access to healthy food, clean water, decent housing, etc. it will be inevitable.

    The thing is that we are poisoning our economy with this also. How do we expect the economy to recover when half the country is at or near poverty? For the decade or so prior to 2008, the answer was simple—debt. Consumer debt, mortgage debt, student loan debt. Our finance masters know no other way to get money into the consumer market, since people don’t make enough to buy everything that the economy puts out, so you have to borrow, borrow, borrow. Whether it’s the federal government running the debt higher or credit cards and home equity loans, it doesn’t matter. We buy buy buy then the richest people siphon off the majority of the money and a little bit trickles back down. When people in Podunk, Nebraska shop at Wal-Mart, what % of their money gets re-circulated into the local economy through wages paid to the workers there? And what % goes back to corporate?

    We can only finance today’s economic growth with some sort of market bubble. Tech stocks in 2000, housing market in 2008, what’s next? Each time we have these crashes, we put more and more cracks in the stability of our economy. More and more people end up among those who have to fear that a week’s stay in the hospital will lose them their job, their house, their credit, everything. There’s less and less money available to the majority, people will go into survival mode and cut out everything non-essential. We still have a strong “consume” ethic. Like it or not, it is what keeps the economy moving. When we’ve put the majority of the population into subsistence mode, when it’s just food, clothing, basic housing, there’s no telling what the shocks will be.

    This study is just a mile marker on our regression back to Gilded Age society. Wealthy plutocrats, a small middle class, and a vast horde of poor people at the mercy of the big trusts.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      You load sixteen tons, what do you get
      Another day older and deeper in debt
      Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
      I owe my soul to the company store

  22. baristabrawl says:

    Um…isn’t this why the cliche about “flipping burgers” is supposed to scare kids into an education?

  23. dwmills says:

    I work in the food industry, and while the company I work for does offer health insurance, we do not have sick days.

    I’ve been there a year, and have seen people less qualified than me get a promotion, and our raises at the beginning of the year were canceled so the owner of the company could buy a new boat , which he boasted about on Facebook.

    It’s not a pretty thing to work in Food. It’s rough, it’s taxing on a physical and emotional level. Long hours, adverse conditions, and a great amount of responsibility too. Cooking is great and all but there’s a lot that goes into making food.

  24. frodolives35 says:

    Welcome to future do not question the JOB CREATORS citizen.

  25. Press1forDialTone says:

    Why doesn’t someone reveal all of these stats BY COMPANY and
    expose it on the media. If we can get pink slime out of hamburger
    or make Taco Bell get all jittery about their product ingredients, why
    can we go big time and shake up the whole set of companies at once???
    Isn’t that what consumerism is all about, instead of just whining?

  26. Doubting thomas says:

    I spent a long time as a cook, waiter, bartender, and/or food service manager. These statistics look dead on to me. The only one I will quibble with is the 81% have never received a promotion.
    About 80% of the people I worked with on every level of service from food truck to 5 star dining were high school,or college age kids who had no intentions of staying at the job and had no interest in a promotion. I always found it very easy to move up rather quickly simply by applying myself and showing that I wanted it.
    In most restaurants if you are good server the last thing you want is to get promoted to a manager position. Mangers get good benefits and have a chance to earn some bonuses but most places I worked i could make more $ per hour waiting tables and getting good tips than I made as a manager.

    I will echo everyone else as well about sick time. even my good bosses who didn’t want sick waiters or cooks coming to work weren’t paying you for sick time so if you were sick on a Friday night you probably chose to work anyhow so that you could make rent. The flip side of this issue is that most of these kids will fake an illness once a week to go to a movie or a concert, or because they are too hungover to work. It is really hard for even a compassionate boss to just take a servers word that they are truly ill. Personally I gave all my staff the benefit of the doubt until they formed a pattern of suspicious illnesses on nights they knew we would be slow, or for Saturday and Sunday morning shifts (bottle-flu we called it)

  27. Midnight Harley says:

    Yeah, I’ve worked at one for 4 years, and somehow if the till is short they deduct it from my paycheck.