Foodies can help bring change in workers’ rights

Amy B. Dean at Al Jazeera America writes on how those rightly concerned about the source of their foods can similarly become champions for workers’ rights:

…concerned eaters have actually leveraged significant change to the food industry. As “slow food” and gourmand culture have broken into the mainstream, desires to support local farms, ensure environmentally sustainable growing practices and avoid pesticides have resulted in a healthier and greener food system.

Recently, a new twist has arisen in the growing trend of food consciousness. Labor rights advocates are asking eaters who care about the origins of the ingredients in their dishes to consider one additional question: How were the workers treated who harvested, packaged and prepared this food?

The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) is fighting to popularize that question. Founded in 2009, the FCWA is a coalition of 22 food workers’ advocacy groups, including unions representing food service, processing and retail workers, along with faith-based community groups and projects that bring together immigrant farmworkers. Their goal is to persuade consumers to demand that the employees who pick, process, ship, prepare and serve their food be paid livable wages and enjoy decent working conditions.

FCWA Associate Director Jose Oliva says that food enthusiasts can make a difference through their buying patterns. He has seen how consumers’ embrace of organic produce and local, pastured meats has led restaurants, farmers and processors to source their ingredients carefully. If members of the FCWA succeed in their campaign, it could help to produce similar changes in the realm of labor rights.

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