So we live in a world where vertically integrated sectors are standard, where many of the same companies hold power throughout a supply chain. So shouldn’t workers in this supply chain be talking to each other? Well, the agro-food system they’re starting to! In this post I’ll be looking at the Food Chain Workers Alliance which states its mission as:
A coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. The Alliance was founded in July 2009. The Alliance works together to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.
Are they as awesome as they sound? So far! Member groups include the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and many many more.
The importance of organizations like the FCWA is that it builds solidarity between those who are negatively affected by a large industry. Of course each of the members of the coalition is going to continue doing their own amazing work – but to have a space to share tactics, respect each others work, and build a movement for justice together is extremely important. The companies they are working to improve work together – so why can’t they?
One of the campaigns of the FCWA that I think is really interesting is their support of a domestic fair trade standard – although they themselves are not working on setting up any sort of certification program they do state support for this type of program. They lay out pretty comprehensive criteria for what would qualify as ‘domestic fair trade’ here: http://foodchainworkers.org/?page_id=232
What I find so fascinating is that there has been broad critique around international fair trade – especially because it is so difficult to regulate and internationally works within trade policies that blatantly favor wealthier nations (NAFTA and CAFTA). In Dan Jaffee’s book Brewing Justice he outlines these concerns in quite articulate and useful ways – highly recommend it. So with this in mind it seems odd to me that there would be a domestic fair trade policy – but thinking more, i mean, why not? The first thing that pops into mind is money! Through learning more and more about the unionization process for farmworkers it seems like lack of funding in the federal government to regulate properly is a huge issue, same in the organics sector. Money aside though I’m sure there are other problems that would abound. But, I think it is really important to not just relegate ideas of fair trade to international products, but also to domestic products, since so much of our food and other products are produced in unjust labor situations.
So that’s the Food Chain Alliance – make sure to keep checking out their website for all the awesome work they’re doing!