How Hard is Thanksgiving Dinner on Minimum Wage?

November 24th 2015

Thanksgiving is a holiday known for indulgence. Where many people would typically say no to the second or third course, they'll often say yes on Thanksgiving. The normal two or three glasses of wine becomes a personal bottle. That being said, not everyone can afford to be so indulgent.

The Fairness Project, a national organization focused on economic initiatives, just shared with us a breakdown of how many hours a minimum wage worker has to work in each state to pay for an average Thanksgiving meal.

minimum wage mealThe Fairness Project - fairnessproject.orgAs you can see, minimum wage workers have to work at least seven hours in most states to afford a Thanksgiving meal.

Americans spend around $2,875,000,000 on Thanksgiving food, according to Statistic Brain. The average Thanksgiving meal for 10 people was calculated by the American Farm Bureau Federation this month, and it came to just over $50. The meal they calculated is rather modest—it includes a 16-pound Turkey, stuffing, rolls, a pumpkin pie, and a few other sides.

The chart takes into account the minimum wage of each state, from $7.25 (the federal minimum) in Alabama to $9.47 in Washington state.

"The reality for a lot of workers who are earning minimum wage is that Thanksgiving is an expensive day, and it's a stressful time in the Holidays," Ryan Johnson, executive director of the Fairness Project, told ATTN:. He pointed out that not only do they have to work a full day to pay for the meal, many of them are forced to work on Thanksgiving day. A Heartland Monitor survey from last year found around 25 percent of Americans end up working on either Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Day every year (with the exception of these few companies are giving Thanksgiving off).

Johnson said Thanksgiving is a luxury for many people, and if they can have a real Thanksgiving, many can't afford nearly as much as they would want. If minimum wage laborers are working on Thanksgiving, they might not even have time to cook the meal.

Beyond what minimum wage workers have to spend of their own money, some minimum wage workers end up on food stamps, so they'll have to dedicate much of their monthly allowance to this holiday.


"If you're working full time, you shouldn't be in poverty, and you shouldn't need to rely on government assistance," Johnson said. He said his organization is working on raising the wage in states across the country, like raising it to $12 in Maine or $15 in California.

Share your opinion

Do you support raising the minimum wage?

No 19%Yes 81%