Nearly 20 million people work in the food system in the U.S., growing, processing, transporting, serving, cooking, & selling the food that we eat each day. Without these workers, we wouldn’t have food on our tables. The food system is the largest employer in the U.S. and yet, millions of food workers struggle to make a living each day. A third of U.S. food workers suffer from food insecurity and hunger and 17 percent earn poverty level wages and earn 40 percent less than the national average hourly for all workers.
What is International Food Workers Week?
This year marks the 3rd Annual International Food Worker Week (IFWW) from November 23-29, 2014. IFWW is an annual week of events and actions designed to educate consumers about the challenges facing food system workers and to encourage them to take actions to support food workers, started by the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) in 2012.
“As workers take more militant action to improve their wages and working conditions, such as sit-down strike and the civil disobedience waged by Walmart workers in Los Angeles on November 13, 2014, we are reminded of the early years of the labor movement, when sit-down strikes shut down the auto industry,” says Jose Oliva, associate director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. “Now that manufacturing is a shadow of its former self, the food system has become the largest private employer in the U.S., with close to 20 million workers. However, unlike the cars and other mass products manufactured by industrial workers, food is an indispensable necessity, making it clear that this is not just a struggle for better working conditions and the recreation of a middle-class, it is the struggle for survival, for a system that helps people and the planet to thrive.”
Who are Our Food Worker Heroes?
According to the FCWA, the focus of this year’s International Food Workers Week is Food Worker Heroes – “everyday food workers who are organizing to stop child labor, to end the use of pesticides, and the militarization of communities from the U.S.-Mexico Border to Ferguson, and food workers who are organizing for living wages for all and access to healthy affordable food.”
Martha Sellers, a Los Angeles-area Walmart worker, is one of the Food Worker Heroes, and she is going on strike on Black Friday. Martha says, “I get a lot of satisfaction in helping the customers find and locate products that will help them and benefit them. That makes me proud to be a worker in this workforce.” Martha is going on strike because “Workers who try to change Walmart for the better can be harassed, humiliated in front of their colleagues, get their hours cut, get written up for no good reason, and even be fired. Since I started speaking out for change in my store, I’ve had my hours cut and seen my coworkers threatened and even fired.”
Go to foodchainworkers.org to learn more about our everyday food worker heroes.
How to Support our Food Chain Workers
A host of events and activities are being planned around the country ranging from movie screenings of the documentary “Food Chains” , coming out in theaters nationwide on November 21, to the release of the FCWA’s new comic book “Food Chain Avengers”, over 1800 Black Friday actions by OUR Walmart workers and supporters, Campaign for Fair Food actions, and many others.
1) Go See Food Chains a Film about the Revolution in America’s Field
Food Chains is a documentary about the struggles of tomato farm workers in Florida, directed by Sanjay Rawal, and featuring actress and farm worker activist, Eva Longoria, food journalist Eric Schlosser, Kerry Kennedy and Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers. From the film’s Web site: “In this exposé, an intrepid group of Florida farmworkers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or CIW, battle to defeat the $4 trillion global supermarket industry through their ingenious Fair Food program, which partners with growers and retailers to improve working conditions for farm laborers in the United States. Their story is one of hope and promise for the triumph of morality over corporate greed – to ensure a dignified life for farm workers and a more humane, transparent food chain.”
2) Support Fair Food
The Fair Food Program (FFP) arose from the work by the CIW to increase the human rights, working conditions and the wages of tomato workers in Florida. Specifically, FFP partners farmworkers with consumers to support a wage increase supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchasers of Florida tomatoes, including Walmart, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Aramark, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods among several others. Participating buyers pay an extra “penny per pound” premium, which tomato growers pass on to workers as a line-item bonus on their regular paychecks. The program also includes a human-rights-based Code of Conduct applicable throughout the Florida tomato industry.
A few large food corporations, the supermarket chains Publix and Kroger, and the fast food chain, Wendy’s have refused to sign on or even meet with CIW about the Fair Food campaign.
3) Watch and Share Food Worker Hero Videos
The FCWA partnered with the Lexicon of Sustainability social media project called the Food List so that the theme for the week of November 24 is Food Workers. The FCWA created a new video series called “Food Worker Heroes” for the Food List. The videos highlight the everyday food worker heroes on whom we depend for our food every day.http://vimeo.com/album/3121782
4) Order Food Chain Avengers Comic Book
FWCA recently created a comic book focused on food workers in order to illustrate the issues facing these workers, as well as their efforts to organize to improve their workplaces, their communities, and the food system. Luis DeLeon, a restaurant worker and member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago, volunteered to write the backstory for the comic book. He created five characters, each representing one of the five main sectors of the food system, and he called them the Food Chain Avengers.
The Food Chain Avengers comic book uses examples drawn from real experiences by workers in their respective industries, the five main characters of the story walk us through each of five sectors of the food chain: production, processing, distribution, retail, and food service. The comic book exposes the exploitative nature of the industry Vis-à-vis its workers, communities, and the environment. in addition, it tells the story of struggle to victory.
The FCWA developed discussion guides with suggested homework assignments for middle school students and high school students that list the Common Core English Language Arts Standards that the comic book and discussion guides address. There is also a discussion guide for adults.You can learn more about the Food Chain Avengers here and order copies in English and/or Spanish here.
5) Participate in Online Actions and Petitions
Here are several online petitions and letter campaigns you can support:
- Farmworker Association of Florida: Sign the petition advocating for drivers licenses for residents in FL, including undocumented immigrants. You can sign the petition by going to their Web site.
- Our Walmart: Sign the petition to support Walmart workers’ demand for $15/hr wage and full-time hours.
- Restaurant Opportunities Centers United: Sign the petition to expose the National Restaurant Association’s influence on Capitol Hill and raise worker voices!
- International Labor Rights Forum: Many of the farmers who grow cocoa live in abject poverty, and child labor is still a serious problem. Go here to learn more and take action.
- Farmworker Association of Florida and the Pesticide Action Network of North America: Send a message to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently deliberating revisions to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the only federal rules designed specifically to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure.
6) Use Social Media to Send Message
The FCWA have published a social media guide, with graphics, memes and suggested tweets and Facebook posts to share.
You can follow FCWA on Twitter @foodchainworker, and retweet or post your own tweets:
This week’s #FoodList theme is #FoodChainWorkers! Watch our new #FoodWorkerHeroes videos there! http://www.lexiconofsustainability.com/the-list-food-chain-workers/ @lexiconproject
This #Thanksgiving take action to support our everyday #foodworkerheroes! http://bit.ly/foodworkerhero
This #Thanksgiving we are grateful for #WalmartStrikers who are standing up for a better life & a better country – BlackFridayProtests.org.
Sample FB posts
There are images and posts on the FCWA’s Facebook page.
Support our everyday food worker heroes! Share our Int’l Food Workers Week Poster and make it your profile picture. Find out more ways to support food workers this Thanksgiving! http://bit.ly/foodworkerhero (And we’re trying to surpass our 300 shares of last year’s IFWW poster so please share and ask your friends to share!)
Watch and Share our new video series “Food Worker Heroes” featuring workers from different sectors of our food system. bitly.com/foodworkerheroes (please tag Organization United for Respect at Walmart, Warehouse Workers for Justice, UFCW770, Rural and Migrant Ministry, and Street Vendor Project)
Check it out! This week’s Food List theme is Food Chain Workers, in honor of Int’l Food Workers Week! Check out our “Food Worker Heroes” videos and other great videos and graphics on the Lexicon of Sustainability’s site! http://www.lexiconofsustainability.com/the-list-food-chain-workers/ (please tag Lexicon of Sustainability)
Food workers coming together to change the food system. Like how that sounds? Check out our new comic book “Food Chain Avengers” about the 20 million workers in the U.S. and the millions more around the world! http://bit.ly/foodchainavengers
Spongebob is food worker too!
Today as you share meals with your friends and family, take a few minutes to acknowledge the hands that feed us. Watch and Share our video “Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast” http://bit.ly/FCWA-GuessWho
Friday 11/28 in the am
It’s Black Friday and thousands of Walmart workers and their supporters are taking action to demand Walmart pay its employees $15/hr and provide full time hours. Participate in an action near you – find out where at blackfridayprotests.org.
It’s the last day of Int’l #FoodWorkers Week! Submit a post about your favorite #FoodWorkerHero today and all year round! http://foodchainworkersalliance.tumblr.com/submit This can be your local farmer or farmworker, a server or busser at your favorite restaurants, your local grocery store clerk, or anyone else in the food chain!
7) Attend Our Walmart Black Friday Protests
If you live or will be visiting a city with a Walmart store in it, you can take part in protests in solidarity with Walmart workers who are asking for a $15 wage and full-time hours, not to mention not forced to work on Thanksgiving Day. To find a Black Friday protest in your city click here.
New York City has no Walmart stores, but FCWA is organizing buses to a North Bergen Walmart. Meet up on Friday, November 28 at 8 a.m. at 310 West 43rd Street, in Manhattan. Buses departing at 8:30am sharp. To reserve a spot on the bus, RSVP here.
For more ways to get involved and support food chain workers, see the IFWW menu.