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The restaurant industry in the United States is exploding, just as the income gap is widening. The trends are related: While expansion of other industries often leads to higher wages and greater opportunities, growth in the restaurant business does not. Shielded by a powerful lobby and a franchise system that makes union organizing difficult and impractical, it provides the scraps at the bottom of the income ladder. The food service industry is the province of kitchen workers who must enlist government investigators to collect the bare minimum they are required by law; wait staff who earn a punishingly low $2.13 per hour nationally in exchange for tips whose distribution is often controlled by management; and fast-food dispensers whose brand-name outlets openly advise them to apply for food stamps and other government aid to supplement their unlivable wages.
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