You can catch up on this week’s food news as you enjoy the long weekend!
The Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois, had an annual shareholder meeting shut down for the third consecutive year as hundreds of employees gathered to demand higher wages and improved working conditions. The effort, which spurred the national “Fight for $15” campaign, backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has helped convince lawmakers and big employers to boost minimum wages and improve working conditions around the country. Last July, McDonald’s raised average hourly pay and began offering paid vacation and other benefits for employees at its 14,000 locations, but the boost was not enough to satisfy workers, whose protest caused McDonald’s to cancel its annual meeting. Yet some employees fear that their jobs will be taken from them and their concerns are not unfounded. Steve Easterbrook, the company’s chief executive officer had to assuage these concerns after one of the company’s former chief executives, Ed Rensi, suggested that a minimum wage of $15 an hour could lead to McDonald’s replacing its workers with robots. Easterbrook said that technology is not likely to lead to “job elimination” at McDonald’s.
China’s New Dietary Guidelines Could Be Good News For The Climate (Think Progress)
China has a public health problem. A recent study found obesity and other diet-related diseases are skyrocketing and the Chinese government is taking steps to address the findings by issuing a set of dietary guidelines. The Chinese Ministry of Health is urging citizens to limit meat and egg intake to 200 grams daily (from the current 300 grams) and replace red meat with fish and chicken. If every man, woman, and child followed the guidelines, meat and egg consumption in China would be reduced by about a third, reducing the nation’s climate impact dramatically. One estimate says that such a change could have roughly the same effect as taking 93 million cars off the road.
There’s More Pain And Injury In The Meatpacking Business Than We Realize (Huffington Post)
According to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), meat and poultry companies may be underreporting workers’ injuries to the government in order to avoid higher costs and scrutiny. On the surface, American slaughterhouses are safer places to work than they once were, but that data gathered by federal regulators likely doesn’t capture all the risks faced by meat and poultry workers. The injury rate for meat workers is higher than the rest of the manufacturing industry, and yet the numbers could be much higher as many of the laborers who sustain injuries on the job are not counted as working directly for the meat and poultry industry. The grim GAO report detailed stories of sanitary workers who clean machinery in meat plants that have suffered amputated limbs and severed fingers, or even died on the job.
Bayer’s Room to Raise Monsanto Bid Looks Limited (Wall Street Journal)
Last week, Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid. The enormous prospective deal between two of the world’s largest agricultural companies, was thwarted because Monsanto wants more money. It’s decision puts pressure on Bayer to decide whether to raise its bid. Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said in a statement, “Bayer remains committed to working together to complete this mutually compelling transaction.” The offer is a reflection of a business environment in which global agrochemicals companies are in a race to consolidate. Last summer, Monsanto tried its own takeover bid when they attempted to purchase rival Syngenta. Now, ChemChina is planning a takeover of Swiss company for $43 billion. USDA Chief Tom Vilsack, has declined to comment on some of the largest mergers the farm economy has ever seen.
A Year After a Violent and Costly Strike, Baja Farm Laborers See Uneven Gains (Los Angeles Times)
Last year, in the Mexican valley of Baja, a farm labor region erupted in violence between police and strawberry pickers. Angry over stagnant wages, workers blocked grocery aisles and highways and caused growers tens of millions of dollars in losses. Negotiations resumed and, within a month, labor leaders and growers had reached an agreement to raise wages and guarantee benefits for tens of thousands of farmworkers. The grassroots campaign eventually forced the Mexican government and powerful agribusinesses to strike a deal. Now, BerryMex, the biggest grower and major supplier for U.S. brand Driscoll’s, boosted its minimum daily wage about $12 and it’s not paying some of the highest wages for warm work anywhere in Mexico. The strike birthed two independent farm labor unions. But not all workers are benefiting equally, and worker wages still vary from farm to farm.
After a pipeline break in New Mexico, the largest farm on the Navajo Nation has been without water for more than a week, and many of the crops (beans, popcorn, pumpkins, etc.) are endangered. The damage will costs millions of dollars and threaten jobs. In all, 72,000 acres of farmland have been cut off from access to water, and subsequently crops. Officials say repairs will be completed on June 11, with water flowing through a canal system days later.