Thinking back to barely a year ago, Oscar Vasquez says things have changed on the Oxnard, California farm where he works picking strawberries. For so long, he felt as though he was treated like little more than a cog in the fruit production machine—necessary to his employer, but also very replaceable.
But now, since his farm adopted a new approach to working with its employees, he feels better about going to work each day. Vasquez and his coworkers care more about the quality of the produce they’re picking and, he adds through a translator, “A lot of workers are staying for the whole season, which is a sign that they feel good about the farm.” Read more
Spring has been slow to arrive in New York this year, but warmer temperatures mean the re-invigoration of the city’s many farmers’ markets. This season, New Yorkers will shop at nearly 150 markets across the five boroughs. Some will surely chat with producers, asking questions about growing practices or ingredients. After reading Margaret Gray’s Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic, I wondered: Will any of them ask about the people who grew, harvested, or transported their food? Read more
Americans might be used to buying Fair Trade chocolate and coffee, but bananas are an entirely different story. The Fair Trade banana industry began in Europe nearly two decades ago and while it currently represents 30 percent of the banana market in the United Kingdom and 50 percent of the market in Switzerland, less than one percent of the bananas sold in the U.S. are Fair Trade certified. Read more
Even in this day and age, injustice remains an invisible ingredient in much of the food that we eat.
— Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union
March 31st is Cesar Chavez Day. As you probably know, Cesar Chavez was a co-founder and leader of the United Farm Workers union. A farmworker himself, in the 1960s through the 1980s, Chavez organized with workers in the fields in California who struggled for fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect on the job. Chavez also collaborated with Filipino labor leaders like Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz to found the United Farm Workers.
Because of Chavez’s legacy of multi-racial organizing for workers’ rights, the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) chose Cesar Chavez Day for a day of action to raise the minimum wage. Read more
When I heard that farmworkers were being bussed from around California’s Central Valley to Delano, the town where the United Farm Workers (UFW) union was founded, to watch the new biopic, Cesar Chavez: American Hero, I had mixed feelings. Read more
When she was U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan focused mainly on local and regional food systems. But she doesn’t think we’ll be able to count on local food for much longer if we don’t take a close look at how and why today’s farms employ their workers. Read more
Around 750 farmworkers, student activists, and faith leaders marched on the Wendy’s corporate headquarters in Ohio yesterday, before heading to the chain’s flagship restaurant. The goal: To ensure that the tomatoes on Wendy’s burgers are picked by people being treated fairly. Read more
When Mario Vargas showed up at the Washington, D.C., offices of representatives from his home state of Ohio in July, he shared stories from farmworkers who are getting sick from pesticides. Joined by his daughter and girlfriend, they made the rounds talking about how it feels to inhale pesticides while pregnant, how farmworkers don’t know what their basic rights are, and how many workers are afraid to tell the truth about what is really going on in the fields. Read more
1. The real minimum wage in the U.S. is $2.13 an hour.
The regular hourly minimum wage is a paltry $7.25 an hour. If you earn tips, your only hourly guarantee is $2.13.
The struggle for labor justice in the fields of the United States—and perhaps far beyond—took an historic stride forward yesterday. At a folding table in a metal-clad produce packing shed beside a tomato field in southwestern Florida, two high-ranking executives from the giant retailer Walmart, which sells more groceries than any other company in the world, sat down beside two Mexican farmworkers and signed an agreement to join the Fair Food Program. Read more