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Food Chain Workers Take Action on Cesar Chavez Day

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

Growing Power Takes Massive Contribution from Wal-Mart: A Perspective on Money and the Movement

Everyone hates fundraising. I am one of those rare souls who actually likes it, but I know how time-consuming, disheartening, and frustrating it can be. Having been the main fundraiser for the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) for 14 years, I am intimately familiar with the realities of non-profit fundraising. So, the recent news that Growing Power was accepting a million dollar donation from Wal-Mart was not so surprising. A million clams is, as they say in D.C., “real money.”

All organizations have to make decisions about from whom they are willing to take money and under what terms. Some groups will take money from any corporation that gives it to them, believing that they can do better things with the money than the company can. Other organizations are more selective, only taking money from those aligned with their mission. Yet Growing Power’s acceptance of this contribution and CEO Will Allen’s statement on his blog present some crucial dilemmas for the movement. Read more

Wal-Mart Promises Local Food, While Big Ag Gears Up for a Fight

Last week, Wal-Mart–the largest grocer in the world with over 8,600 stores in 15 countries, two million employees and sales of $405 billion–made news when it launched sustainable agriculture goals for the U.S. and emerging markets focused on regional food systems. The move is part of decade-long trend of food businesses–from producers to purveyors–adapting, or at least claiming to adapt, to the consumer demand for sustainable food.

Wal-Mart’s decision–the details of which I will get to in a moment–comes on the heels of the success of chains like Whole Foods, which also touts local foods. But unlike Whole Foods, which is considered “niche”, Wal-Mart is mainstream. Some say that this announcement is going to shake the ground under agri-business, which has vehemently fought against anyone suggesting changes to the food system for years now. But agri-business companies are not going to take this shift in consumer demand lying down.

In fact, agri-business elites have been trying either covertly or otherwise to convince the consumer that sustainable food advocates have misled them into thinking the current food system is unsafe, unjust, and unhealthy. And the evidence shows that more of the same is coming down the pipeline. Read more