Equity And Justice In The Food System
Farmworkers and other food chain workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and immigrant rights. Though they are considered “essential,” they are some of the most exploited workers in America and still not covered by some of the basic labor protections afforded to others.
In a webinar this week, we heard from Jeannie Economos from the Farmworker Association of Florida, Jose Oliva from the HEAL Food Alliance, Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and California Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who were able to talk about all they’re doing to help food and farm workers across the country.
See below for a recording of the webinar, additional resources, and 6 main takeaways to help you plan for your 2021 legislative session.
SiX Main Takeaways:
- Farmworkers make up just one link of the food supply chain—there’s also processing, distribution, retail, and restaurant and service workers. In total, 21.5 million people are food chain workers in this country. Policies should take into account all types of food chain workers.
- Food and farm workers are some of the lowest paid and exploited workers in the country because they are not covered by many federal labor laws. State legislators can fill in the gaps where the federal system has failed.
- Protecting food workers means more than just raising wages because workers are also endangered by heat, toxic chemical exposure, substandard housing, COVID-19, smoke from wildfires, and more. Some states have already passed bills to address these problems.
- Even in states with progressive legislatures, large growers and other agricultural interests have a lot of influence at the state house. Changing the system requires buy-in from a variety of stakeholders.
- The best policies will come from including farm and food workers at the table. These are skilled laborers and they know what policies are necessary.
- National grassroots coalitions can help connect legislators to farm and food worker organizations in every state. SiX can help connect you!
Resources to Help You Plan for Your 2021 Legislative Session
Legislation Discussed During the Webinar
Covid Farm Worker Protections
New Jersey had a bill to appropriate funds for farmers to purchase PPE for farm and food workers.
Through executive action, Governors from California and Michigan have taken action to protect farm workers. An Executive order from California Governor Newsom requiring paid sick leave for workers, while Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Order on migrant housing camps during COVID-19.