This first week, the theme is “Digging In.”
Today’s topic is Roots of Injustice: Food and Farm Workers
The very foundation of our food system in the United States is grounded in slavery. This started with the system of plantation slavery in the Southeast, moved into indentured servitude and share cropping and has continued over time with “agricultural exceptionalism,” which has left farm workers out of labor protections over time. Watch or listen to the first 10 minutes (and certainly more if you have time) of this recorded webinar on “The Roots of Injustice in Our Agricultural Systems.” [April 8 edit: we realize that the link provided here no longer works and has been taken down by the host website since we started the Challenge. We are looking for an alternate link to share and will post asap.]
[June 3 edit: We have not been able to secure a replacement link for the “Roots of Injustice” recorded webinar. Instead we would like to recommend two alternative resources: Racial Equity in the Food System MSU webinar recording and Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice presentation by Leah Penniman.]
- Were you aware of this history of our food system? How does it make you feel to take in this history and these stories? What surprises you? What questions do they raise?
- Consider the workers you otherwise may not notice or think about who help get the food you eat to you. Who are they? Where do they come from? Do you know anything about their working conditions? How are they treated? Do they have benefits?
- Share this history and these stories with others. What are their reactions? What possible actions might you take together?
- Connect with food workers in your community. Treat them with respect and dignity. Find out more about their challenges and struggles, especially now with the coronavirus pandemic.
- Find out if there are worker campaigns in your community/state/region that are fighting for fair wages and humane working conditions. Consider supporting these campaigns.
- Consider signing this petition to governors and federal representatives demanding full labor protections for front line food workers (from the Food Chain Workers Alliance).
04 Digging Deeper, Time Permitting
- Look at this brief Backgrounder from Food First that links food, labor and immigrant rights.
- Take a look at the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network, which is expanding the WSR model around the globe, in which worker-led solutions are creating accountability and more equitable distribution of wealth and power.
- Would you pay a penny more for farm worker rights? The Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida has transformed the tomato industry from one of modern day slavery to one of the safest workplaces in the world under their Fair Food program. Currently they have a campaign against Wendy’s to pay a penny more to create a difference in farm workers lives. Maybe you can help with this campaign or something like it close to home.
- The Milk With Dignity Campaign coordinated by Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante in Vermont is designed to support farmers and farmworkers by having big companies pay down the supply chain to create better housing and working conditions for workers, and also support farms to stay open by providing a premium for the milk. Ben & Jerry’s has done it and they are now focused on Hannaford. Take a look at this movement and stand with them.
- Some parts of the restaurant industry are known for creating some of the most abusive workplaces in our country. Take a look at the work of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United which is fighting to improve wages and working conditions for the thirteen million people who work in America’s restaurants.
- Also take a look at the Food Chain Workers Alliance for updates on actions happening around the country that are led by and supporting workers in various parts of our food chain.