By Eric Galatas
Texas News Service
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas workers are planning a new round of protests for higher wages on tax day.
A new report from the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center has uncovered part of the hidden cost of low-wage work in America. It says when jobs don’t pay enough, workers turn to public assistance to meet their basic needs, costing U.S. taxpayers over $152 billion annually.
Adolfo Ajucum, a chef at Taco Bell for three-and-a-half years, says he’ll join the protests.
“Honestly, to me I prefer to make my own money, instead of depending from the government,” he says. “If you work full time, I believe we should be able to pay our bills. When you have a family, you’re forced to either buy food or pay your bills.”
The report found nearly three-quarters of people who qualify for public assistance programs such as food stamps are members of working families.
The National Restaurant Association says increasing wages could cost jobs.
Workers have made gains in recent weeks, winning $10 an hour at Walmart, and roughly five percent of the overall workforce at McDonald’s will get paid one dollar above the local minimum wage. Ajucum and other demonstrators are pushing for $15 an hour, a minimum wage increase recently passed in Seattle.
“I want to give a little bit more to my family, because I have a kid now, so now I’ve got to look out for her,” says Ajucum. “She’s going to school now, so I’ve got to buy her school supplies and all this stuff, so it’s tough.”
The National Restaurant Association charges that the protests, which are supported by labor unions, are about boosting membership and bolstering union dues. The association claims that 90 percent of restaurants are small businesses operating on razor-thin profit margins.