On July 10, Frederico Lopez couldn’t take it anymore. The berry picker says he was constantly barraged with verbal abuse by his supervisor, while earning only 30 cents per pound of berries. “It’s unjust to yell at us like we are animals, simply for asking for a fair wage” he told his supervisors that day. It is no surprise that Lopez spoke up. At such a low rate, he and his fellow workers have to pick at an impossible speed just to earn Washington State’s $9.19 minimum wage. Read more
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Morris Cornley didn’t show up for his job at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches today. Instead, the 57-year-old veteran spent the day traveling between fast food franchises throughout Kansas City as part of a week of action that has been called the “largest fast food worker mobilization in U.S. history.” The crowds today will not be nearly as big as they were in New York on Monday. But that’s part of what makes it seem so necessary to folks like Cornley. Read more
Food activists are clearly invested in ensuring that farm animals aren’t exploited in the production of food. We’ve joined hands with animal rights activists to fight Ag Gag bills and raise awareness of CAFOs, and the pressure we’ve put on restaurants is starting to show as cage-free eggs and pasture-raised meats are increasingly found on their menus. However, the humans involved are too often left out of the conversation. Farm worker issues are occasionally brought to light, but not nearly often enough. Restaurant workers get even less attention. Read more
TCHO (pronounced “choh”—the “t” is silent), a phonetic spelling for the first syllable of chocolate, masterly mixes alchemy and artistry to produce award-winning organic, beyond fair trade chocolate from its Pier 17 headquarters along the San Francisco bay. Read more
When the United States passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, it took a step from Upton Sinclair’s Jungle to the workplace that you and I enjoy today. It’s been generations since the labor standard was raised, and now discussions of fairness and the workplace center around rising CEO pay, raising the minimum wage for fast food workers, and the union busting taking place in several states. But the sad fact is, in 2013, there is a class of workers that never stepped out of The Jungle and still lives under a set of protections not very different from the house of horrors Sinclair described. Read more
For the first time in almost 30 years, serious reform of U.S. immigration policies seems possible. The outcome of the Presidential election, both the dimensions of President Obama’s victory and its demographic makeup reflecting changes in the electorate, have motivated both political parties to solve this important problem. Read more
On the heels of his agency’s release of a comprehensive report on climate change and its effects on U.S. agricultural production, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said yesterday that America’s farmers and ranchers are a critical part of the solution and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be there to help them step up to the plate. Read more
In his State of the Union Address this month, President Obama called for a much- needed increase to the federal minimum wage. Almost four million American workers are paid at or below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for their work, adding up to about $15,000 per year, per person for a full-time, 40 hour per week job. This doesn’t come close to covering the cost of living for a single person, let alone a family.
In the food retail sector, unfortunately, raising the minimum wage might not make much of a difference to those employees that are most vulnerable. Grocery stores and other food retail outlets are already avoiding minimum wage and benefit requirements for many workers by keeping them in part-time jobs. Realistically, if a worker can’t get scheduled for 40 hours per week of work, then minimum wage requirements cease to be effective in ensuring an annual income floor. Read more
What do food banks, food chain workers, and Dreamers all have in common? The answer, when it comes to immigration, is just about everything.
Today, our misguided immigration policies prevent us from providing healthy and sustainable food for all families, from upholding basic standards of human and labor rights within our food systems, and from creating opportunities for healthy communities for all children. In fact, America’s food system cannot thrive without fair, just, and humane immigration reform. Read more
I grew up in a small town, population 15000 if you counted every cow in the valley. Every morning I’d hear my dad walk in the kitchen, pour his first cup of coffee and turn on the radio. Paul Harvey’s voice wafted into my bedroom regularly, and along with that smell of fresh brewed Folgers, became a thread in the fabric of my childhood. I didn’t know anything about Paul Harvey’s politics, but I loved the way he owned a pregnant pause.
On Sunday, Harvey’s voice was featured on a Super Bowl ad for Dodge Ram trucks featuring imagery of farmers. The audio was condensed from a 1978 speech Harvey made to the Future Farmers of America. I grew up in a rural town, my dad was born on a farm, and he and my mom opened a buffalo ranch when he retired from his career as a university professor. About the time my parents returned to a life on the land, I started working for FoodHub, a project of the nonprofit Ecotrust, which is a platform dedicated to connecting small and medium farmers with chefs, schools and other wholesale food buyers in their area. As a food system reformer and marketing professional, I had a visceral reaction to the ad. Read more