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Abstract

In the United States, a movement towards sustainable food production and food systems has been growing, as evidenced by interest in community gardens, urban agriculture, and healthy, local, and “slow” food access, but this broad food movement has not yet fully integrated the voices and leadership of the workers who bring our food from the farm to the table. This article argues that those who want a sustainable, just food system need to care about and collaborate with food workers in order to achieve that goal. With almost 20 million workers in the food system in the U.S., and millions more around the world, food workers are a key stakeholder group that should not be ignored. They face a multitude of injustices such as low wages, a lack of benefits, and dangerous working conditions that intersect with many of the issues that those in the “sustainable food” movement are working on, such as food insecurity and a lack of access to healthy and affordable food. Food workers in the U.S. also make up the largest employment sector in the country. As an organized group, food workers have the potential to influence governments, corporations, and society at large and to directly diminish the power of corporations in the current food system.

The author of this article is the executive director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), a national coalition of unions, workers centers, and advocacy organizations throughout the food system. She provides a first-hand account of the history of the FCWA, its work in bringing the issues of food workers to the attention of the sustainable food movement, its collaborations with others working for justice in the food system, and its hopes for future movement-building.

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