Washington Insiders continue to boast about how well the economy is doing;  One of the service areas that gets trumpeted as seeing growth is the restaurant and food industry.  And while it's true that there has been some growth there over the last few years, it comes at a price.

Twenty million American employees work with food in some form or fashion;  That represents one-sixth of the nations workforce.  Recent studies show, though that those employees are suffering.

But just more than 1 in 10 of them earn a livable wage. The vast majority don’t get basic benefits from their employers and don’t have many opportunities for advancement. The food industry, according to the study’s authors, could be endangering its workers and customers by forcing employees to operate in conditions of high stress and little payback.

Other interesting facts:

  • The median wage for a food industry worker is $9.65 an hour. Compared with the 8.3% of American workers on food stamps, 13.8% of food industry employees depend on the aid.
  • Eighty-three percent say their employers don’t offer health insurance. More than 3 in 10 use the emergency room for primary care.
  • Seventy-nine percent either don’t get paid sick days or don’t know if they do. Three in 10 don’t always get a lunch break.
  • Eighty-one percent have never received a promotion. Minorities and immigrants face especially high levels of discrimination and segregation and rarely advance beyond the lowest-paying positions.
  • Fifty-seven percent have suffered an injury or health problems on the job. More than half have picked, processed, sold, cooked or served food while sick -- an average of three days a year.

So what is the solution?  Raise menu prices to drive payroll?  That suggested solution isn't as easy as it sounds.  Most restaurants already price near the "break-point" and risk a lower volume of customers with every penny they raise rates.

One thing is for sure - just like grocery stores - restaurants aren't going away any time soon;  We all have to eat.  How to treat food-related employees better will remain a burning issue.


Few American food industry workers are treated well, report says - latimes.com.