This post was written by Hannah Hafter, Senior Associate for Service-Learning Programs at the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ).
Did you know that over 30 million people in the U.S. alone are employed in the food chain, making it one of the largest sectors for employment in the country? Yet food chain workers are among the lowest paid and most highly exploited groups—from farm workers who are excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act to servers at restaurants who legally earn a minimum wage of only $2.13 an hour plus tips. We are all participants in this food chain as consumers, whether we eat out or at home, and as consumers, we have power to stand with those exploited in the workplace.
For these reasons, the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) collaborated with the Food Chain Workers Alliance in September to host the first Justice in the Food Chain training. This Chicago event brought together members of three mid-west Workers Centers (working in agriculture, slaughterhouses, and warehouses), Unitarian Universalists, and other faith-based allies to learn about the root causes of problems in the food chain and to collaborate on campaigns to improve them.
Together, food chain workers and faith-based allies shared stories, built community, and learned concrete organizing skills for analyzing power and running effective campaigns. The training’s goal was to empower participants to work towards “Good Food Purchasing Policies” (GFPP) in their cities, school systems, and other institutions. Good Food Purchasing Policies like the one already implemented in Los Angeles create standards for millions of dollars of food purchases addressing the four areas of: Heath; Environment; Access; and Labor (HEAL). Good Food Purchasing Policy campaigns also create collaborations across sectors, bringing together groups working on making healthy food more accessible with people working to improve labor standards in the food chain.
Our 25 participants went home with plans for how to build campaigns in their mid-west communities. Keep an eye out for future Justice in the Food Chain trainings taking place locally in your region. To learn more about Worker Justice Centers and find out what is happening where you live, go to this list of Food Chain Workers Alliance Member Organizations.
Thank you to the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Labor Notes, the Northwest Arkansas Worker Justice Center, the Rural Community Workers Alliance, and the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center for collaborating with us! And thank you to all of our participants, and particularly to the Unitarian Church of Evanston which had the largest contingent.