Justice in the Food Chain: Training for Organizers and Activists
More than 20 million people are employed in the American food system, and 86% of them earn low to poverty wages; most of these workers are people of color, and many are immigrants. Human rights questions within the food chain are connected to “earth rights” questions: heavy reliance by corporate farms on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and intensive water use are poisoning our environment.
In September 2015, UUCSJ and the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance teamed up to develop a training program that unites our concern for the environment with our concern for worker justice. Justice in the Food Chain brought together food chain workers with activist allies who care about sourcing our food in a way that is both environmentally conscious and fair to workers. Participants in the training learned from the “Good Food Purchasing Policy” successfully implemented in Los Angeles, with the goal of campaigning for a similar policy in Chicago, Cincinnati and other major cities.
This pilot program of training and solidarity will be followed by active support from the UUSC Justice Building program; visit uusc.org for more information.
Our pilot training will take place in Chicago, Friday, September 25-Sunday, September 27. Some parts of the training program will be woven into weekend events organized by Growing Power Chicago, another justice partner focused on urban farming and eliminating racism in our food production systems.
A limited number of training slots are available. Because the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance will be organizing fair food campaigns in Chicago and Cincinnati in 2015-16, we are primarily seeking participants who live in these metropolitan areas.
Cost: The cost of this 3-day program is $100, including meals. Housing costs are an additional $135 total/person for shared rooms, or $345 total/person for a semi-private.
Financial aid is available on a first come, first serve basis for those with financial need. Be sure to fill out the relevant questions on the application if you would like to be considered for aid.
Aid awarded is contingent on funds being available.
If participants need housing, they will stay at the downtown Hostelling International Chicago (24 E. Congress Parkway) in ten-person dorm rooms with shared bathrooms either en suite or in the hall; a limited number of singles or doubles are available for an additional fee. The hostel provides easy access to downtown attractions and public transportation.
The following resources will help you understand some of the issues facing workers across the food chain, and the ways workers are organizing through worker justice centers around the country.
- The Color of Food documents racism in the American food chain:
- Worker Centers: Organizing Communities at the Edge of the Dream tells the story of the rise of worker justice centers and the new vision for organizing that unites workers with allies in faith communities around the country.
“Food for Thought,” a blog post by Ariel Jacobson that examines the historical and sociological roots of UUCSJ’s Justice in the Food Chain program.
Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman, cofounder and codirector, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
Advocates for Workers Raise the Ire of Business, a New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse that highlights the work of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
UUCSJ’s Study Guide, a resource for cross-cultural engagement
To learn more about UUSC’s work on this issue, visit the Choose Compassionate Consumption website.
The UUA offers many resources on ethical eating.
The Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition of 23 worker justice centers around the country, whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food. FCWA helps coordinate the efforts of these groups to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. The Alliance works together to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.
Labor Notes is a media and organizing project that has been the voice of workers and union activists since 1979. Through their magazine, website, resources and conferences, Labor Notes promotes organizing and networking among workers’ centers, worker-led unions and ally organizations. It was at a Labor Notes conference in 2008 that the initial conversations took place leading to formation of the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance. Organizers from Labor Notes have now been invited to help shape the curriculum and facilitate the training for the Fair Food Campaign.
Jose Oliva is the associate director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. Founder of the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center, he has also served as coordinator for the Workers’ Alliance for a Just Economy, a program of the Center for Community Change; coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers’ Centers Network; and executive director of Casa Guatemala, where he organized day laborers on Chicago’s street corners.
Kimberly Quinn Johnson is a student at Meadville Lombard Theological School and a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry. Before being called to ministry, she worked as a labor organizer, and she continues her work as an adjunct professor of women’s and gender studies.
UUCSJ’s social justice work and experiential learning provides a perfect nexus for Quinn Johnson’s commitment to popular education, liberation, and transformation in people’s lives and communities — all grounded in deep and abiding love. She lives in New Jersey.