As the largest source of employment in the United States, our food system can and should center the health, safety and economic well-being of us all — especially the 21.5 million working people that cultivate, process, distribute, cook and serve our food. Unfortunately, alongside being the biggest, this system is also the most exploitative. Over and over again we’ve seen the same few powerful corporations with a stranglehold on our food supply place profits over people by paying low wages, providing unsafe working conditions, and punishing working people for speaking out. It’s within our power to disrupt this status quo.
May 1st is May Day, also known as International Workers Day. As we celebrate working people on May Day, will you commit to supporting worker-centered initiatives that create food systems where everyone has the right to produce, share, and eat food that’s free from exploitation of people and the planet? Here are four ways to do it:
1. Direct Support to Worker-Led Organizations, Campaigns, Unions
Working people across the country are demanding not just living wages and safe working conditions, but also more autonomy within their working environment. In the last year, workers at giant corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks unionized despite their employers’ million dollar, union-busting machines. And at Amy’s Kitchen, a small artisanal brand, working people are leading a boycott to retaliate against unfair labor practices.
This is a critical moment in labor organizing and it’s up to all of us to keep this momentum going! Now’s the time to donate to organizations who are revolutionizing our food system and fighting to achieve a balance of power in our workplaces, economy, and democracy. And you can start right now by donating to the following organizations:
Brandworkers supports food manufacturing workers in New York and New Jersey with training, infrastructure, and community to build their own unions for dignified jobs and power in society. They are trying to raise $50K for peer learnings, trainings, mutual aid, and other tools needed to sustain the organizing of food factory workers.
FarmWorker Association of Florida (FWAF)
FWAF is building power among farmworkers, in particular those from Latinx, Indigenous and Haitian communities, and rural low-income communities in Florida. On May Day, they are rallying for pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants an avenue for family reunification. If you are in Orlando you can join them in Orlando on May 1! More details here »
Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA)
FCWA is a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food. They represent over 375,000 food workers and organize workers across various parts of the food chain to ensure that food workers have a seat at the table when it comes to federal policy and decision making.
Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC)
IORC empowers people to improve the well-being of their communities, sustain family farms and ranches, transform local food systems, promote clean energy, and advocate for stewardship of Idaho’s natural resources. Last year, they created the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance which works closely with Idaho’s farm worker and immigrant communities, most of whom are immigrants.
Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United)
ROC United organizes restaurant workers to overcome the obstacles racism and sexism place in their way by helping them understand their rights and advocating for political representation through organizing, educating, training, and agitating.
Rural Community Workers Alliance (RCWA)
RCWA is a worker-led organization that empowers, educates, and organizes refugee and immigrant workers from the food industry to address their needs and concerns in the workplace and their communities. They organize meatpacking workers at Smithfield, one of the country’s largest pork processing corporations and are at the forefront of the fight for safer worker conditions in meatpacking plants.
Warehouse Workers for Justice
Warehouse Workers for Justice is a worker center fighting for stable, living-wage jobs in warehouses and distribution centers. If you are in the Chicago-area you can join them for an outdoor Workers’ BBQ for People & Planet on May 7th!
2. Champion policy that centers working people
Our country’s food system was built on the enslavement and exploitation of Black and Indigenous people, and our labor laws still bear the imprint of this history. Together, we can overturn this legacy of exploitation and injustice. Let’s demand lawmakers listen to workers and wrest power from the hands of exploitative corporations so working people and their families can thrive.
HEAL is working with our members and allies to pass the Protecting Meat Packing Workers Act (PAMWA), a bill that will provide essential protections to meatpacking workers. PAMWA is critical to ensuring working people have the power to shape their working conditions and the food system that they are a critical part of. But we need your support!
Urge your elected officials to support PAMWA now »
3. Fight corporate abuse of power
We deserve a future where all of us who work get a fair return on our labor, and can take pride in our work. But the handful of corporations that control our food supply also control our labor markets, and leave many working people with few choices when it comes to earning a dignified living. Antitrust advocates and community organizers are working together to demand laws that crackdown on consolidation, prevent monopolies, and protect working people.
Bills like “Prohibiting Anti Competitive Mergers Act (PAMA)” and “Farm Systems Reform Act (FSRA)” are critical steps in this direction — HEAL is working with our members and network of allies to move them forward.
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4. Invest in worker-led alternatives
Worker-owned coops are sprouting and thriving across the country, proving worker-centered enterprises are the future of our food systems! These cooperatives nurture human relationships, a sense of purpose, and uplift informal economies and traditional food ways. This movement will grow to eventually make consolidated corporate ownership of the food system obsolete.
The vision to move towards democratically controlled, community-centered food systems is an ambitious one, but organizations across the country, like the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED) are already making strides. When you invest in cooperative models, you invest in a future where the food system is made up of people whose work is dignified and respected, whose families are cared for, and whose practices steward the environment.
Want to be part of the thriving co-op movement? CoFED’s Build, Unlearn, Decolonize (BUD) program for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander youth is back in person this year! Register by May 15 »