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Fight for $15 Gains Momentum

The fight to raising the minimum wage has been gaining momentum over the last few months and got another bump on April 15th with demonstrations throughout the country.

strike 2 Thousands of people in hundreds of events took to the streets, walking off in low wage jobs and holding signs in solidarity with low-wage workers. Fast food workers and low-wage tipped workers were the focal point of many demonstrations.

In Washington DC, Food Chain Workers Alliance along with their member organizations, including Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), joined the demonstrations and spoke out against the National Restaurant Association, the lobbying group that has kept tipped wages at $2.13 for decades. Saru Jayaraman of ROC explained to the crowd that it was not just a fight against a lobbying group, but that given the history of tipped wages in the US, “we are trying to overcome the legacy of slavery in this country.”

Meanwhile fair brand Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap is leading the charge in DC for a local ballot initiative to raise the wage there.

strike 1

Fast Track is the Wrong Track for Food and Farm

Fafarmir World Project joined over 100 organizations in a letter to Congress asking them to oppose Fast Track because restricting Congressional oversight of international trade agreements will be a disaster for food and farming.

Fair World Project joined over 100 organizations in a letter to Congress asking them to oppose Fast Track because restricting Congressional oversight of international trade agreements will be a disaster for food and farming.

 From the letter:

We need to start from an honest assessment of the problems confronting American farmers and rural communities and not pretend that expanded trade, at any cost, will solve them. These problems include falling crop prices, rising costs of inputs, and dramatic increases in corporate concentration in agriculture that make it ever more difficult for farm families to make ends meet and for rural communities to thrive. To cite just one example, Iowa State University estimates the cost of corn production in that state at $4.93 a bushel, while the price has fallen to as low as $3 a bushel in recent months. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization project continued low prices through 2023. Trade at such low prices may benefit agribusiness exporters, but does not serve the interests of farmers, workers, and rural small business and communities, either in the U.S. or abroad.

As an organization dedicated to creating a more just economy for small-scale farmers and working families, this letter highlights why we got involved in the fight to stop Fast Track. The food we eat and the people who produce it depend on fair trade, not free trade.

Read the full letter.

Time to Hold Large Buyers Accountable To Farmworkers Who Grow and Harvest Our Food

Photo Credit: DON BARTLETTI (LA Times)

Photo Credit: DON BARTLETTI

When the LA Times published its investigative report at the end of 2014 detailing horrendous conditions for farmworkers on produce farms in Mexico, it just confirmed what many of us knew must be the reality. Lack of sanitation, little to no bedding, withholding of already inadequate wages, and restricting workers’ ability to leave were detailed in this series.

Despite consumer outrage and promises by some companies, notably the retailer giant Wal-Mart, to do more, the situation has yet to improve leading to a farmworker strike in the Baja area of Mexico.

A third of our fruit and two thirds of our vegetables here in the US come from large produce farms in Mexico. This situation has been growing for decades and can be traced to NAFTA, which led not only to an increase in fresh produce imports from Mexico to the US, but some companies moved production south of the border where they could pay the same workers less money to produce and process fresh fruits and vegetables for US consumers.

The situation is now a crisis and the 50,000 farmworkers who went on strike as well as thousands of others need immediate change so that they are free to work for fair pay without jeopardizing their healthy and even their lives.

Because the problem is systemic, it will take a huge coordinated effort to overcome. Although the current crisis centered around Baja, Mexico, some of the same buyers of produce from these farms have ben implicated elsewhere. For example, a worker from a farm supplying Driscoll’s was cited in the article above. As far away as the state of Washington, on Sakuma Brothers Farm where Driscoll’s is also the main buyer, workers are also striking over poor pay and conditions.

In solidarity with the farmworkers in Mexico, the US-based United Farm Workers (UFW) has circulated a petition that will be shared with major retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, and Safeway. These retailers collectively buy massive amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables and get them into the hands of millions of consumers. They have an obligation to both their consumers who do not want to participate in this system of oppression, as well as to the producers who provide the food. And they have the power to do things differently.

However, nearly half of the money spent on food in the US is spent on food prepared away from home. This means that restaurants need to be involved in the systemic change.

In addition to signing the UFW petition asking retailer to intercede, please also let major restaurant chains know they need to do the same.

Posted on April 2nd 2015

Photo Credit: DON BARTLETTI (LA Times Article: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables).