The expression, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you," is both common and sensible. But a new report from the Food Chain Workers Alliance offers a grim portrait of the American food industry, which employs nearly 20 million people (h/t Mother Jones), and suggests we're doing just that.
The report quantifies the economic situation of food workers of every stripe: farmers, line cooks, slaughterhouse workers, grocery store employees, and the people who drive the delivery trucks.
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Out of this whole subset, according to the report, just 40 percent earn enough to put them above the poverty line. Only 13.5 percent of food workers are earning what the report calls a living wage, an income at least one and a half times as high as the local poverty threshold.
In sum, it appears a lot of food workers are going to the soup kitchen.
It's worth noting that the Food Chain Workers Alliance isn't a neutral party here; the group is an advocacy organization devised of food industry employees, and according to its website, one of its goals is to "improve the wages and working conditions of food system workers and their families."
Still, the report, which is based on almost 700 interviews with food industry workers, has done some notable legwork. Details include high injury and sickness rates among food workers, the industry's relative lack of health care coverage, and the limitations many workers face in seeking promotions.
The report seemingly disproves the optimistic press releases issued as of late by the National Restaurant Association, which boasts about prosperity within the industry created by the NRA.
Here is a list of the lowest paying jobs and median wages:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011
1. Combined Food Prep and Serving: $18,230
2. Fast Food Cooks: $18,300
3. Dishwashers: $18,360
4. Dining Room/Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers: $18,420
5. Shampooers: $18,420
6. Gaming Dealers: $18,460
7. Counter Attendants (Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop): $18,510
8. Hosts and Hostesses: $18,560
9. Waiters and Waitresses: $18,570
10. Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers: $18,610