Charting the top and the bottom of the food chain

By Laurie Bennett

October 17, 2013 at 7:51am

Two reports issued this week detailed the extent to which fast-food companies rely on the U.S. taxpayers to supplement workers’ low wages.

A study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois found that 52 percent of fast-food workers relied on at least one type of public assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid. These workers are twice as likely as the overall workforce to depend on government help.

McDonalds logo

One in five families with a member working in the fast-food sector has an income below the poverty line.

A second report, issued by the National Employment Law Project (pdf), found that the 10 biggest fast-food companies in the U.S. cost taxpayers more than $3.8 billion annually in public assistance because workers are not paid enough to cover basic necessities.

Who benefits from government subsidies?

Not just the low-level worker. Company profits, stock prices and executive compensation rise as expenses decline.

The interactive Muckety map above shows some of the wealthiest officers and directors of McDonald’s and its three biggest stockholders - BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard.

All of the individuals (the tan boxes in the map) are multimillionaires.

Donald Thompson, who became president and CEO of McDonald’s in July 2012, received a total compensation package last year of $13.8 million. Directors of the company were paid between $250,050 and $1 million.

The pay package for Laurence Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, was $20.3 million last year. BlackRock was the largest institutional investor in McDonald’s at the time of its last proxy filing, in April, with 6.53 percent of the stock.

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