In April of this year, Andrew Moesel, a representative of the New York Restaurant Association, went onto MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes to argue that low-wage fast food jobs are just an entry level starting point for American workers. “The restaurant industry is a launching pad,” Moesel said. “And, yes, there are some low wage jobs, entry level jobs for young people and others, but it actually creates an opportunity for people to go on and live the American dream.”
Moesel’s argument — that young people largely account for those earning abysmally low wages — is common among those who reject raising the minimum wage. But, according to new report out Thursday, that claim doesn’t hold water.
In fact, the Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that people aged 25–54 hold the largest share of fast-food worker jobs in the U.S. Eleven percent of workers earning $7.25 an hour or less are older than 20, as are 68 percent of workers earning between $7.26 and $10.09. This means that minimum wage workers are not simply teenagers looking for some pocket money while living at home with their parents; most fast food workers are trying to make a life for themselves and their families on the pittance that they earn.
The report also breaks down fast-food workers by demographics including race, gender, and whether those workers have kids:
This new information simply serves to underscore what’s already known about the fast food industry: Employers are incorrect in asserting that these jobs are a wrung on the ladder to the American dream. Mobility does not actually exist for low-wage fast food workers. As an earlier report from the National Employment Law Project found, a meager 2.2 percent of fast food workers hold managerial, professional, or technical positions. The vast majority — more than 89 percent — remain front-line workers with little chance to advance.
The statistics are ample fodder, too, for what’s become a growing protest movement in the fast food industry. Workers around the country are striking or walking out to demand an increase in wages, an end to wage theft, and the ability to form a union.