Just 13.5 Percent Of Food Workers Make A Living Wage: Report

What did you have for breakfast today?

Chances are good it came to you by way of someone barely making a living.

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). The report examines the economic situation of food workers of every stripe -- from farmers to line cooks to slaughterhouse workers to grocery store employees to the people who drive the trucks.

Out of this whole population, according to the report, just 40 percent are earning enough to put them over the local poverty line. And only 13.5 percent of food workers -- fewer than one in seven -- 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 other words, a lot of food workers are going hungry.

The Food Chain Workers Alliance isn't a neutral party here; the group is an advocacy organization composed 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 -- based on almost 700 interviews with food industry workers -- is notable for its detail, delving into the high injury and sickness rates among food workers, the industry's relative lack of health care coverage, and the dearth of opportunities for many workers to move up the ladder or into a better job.

The report also serves as a disquieting counterpoint to the sunny press releases issued lately by the National Restaurant Association boasting about the hundreds of thousands of food service jobs that the industry created or that the NRA expects to materialize soon.

Many of those jobs, according to one economist, will likely be low-wage positions that soak up workers whose skills would be put to better use elsewhere in a more dynamic economy.

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