The ongoing movement to raise the wages of fast food workers got a boost today from two new reports that attempt to quantify just how much those low wages cost society as a whole. It's a lot.

The first report, out of UC-Berkeley's Labor Center, attempts to calculate the total amount of public benefits that taxpayers provide to low-wage fast food workers, who are not paid enough to cover their basic needs. The findings:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
  • The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.

Even those lucky enough to get full time hours are not immune: "The families of more than half of the fast-food workers employed 40 or more hours per week are enrolled in public assistance programs."

The second report, from the National Employment Law Project, breaks down the public costs by individual fast food company. It says that the ten largest fast food chains, which employ 2.25 million people, cost taxpayers $3.8 billion per year in public assistance. McDonald's alone accounts for $1.2 billion of that figure.

You can find fast food workers complaining loudly about this situation at a city near you.

[Image via NELP]