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Food Chain Workers Alliance Statement on NLRB ruling on picketing


The Food Chain Workers Alliance strongly objects to a recent ruling of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that determined a picket by San Francisco janitors advocating for their rights to be illegal. The ruling uses a weak and narrow reading of the law to effectively undermine the fundamental freedom of speech of all workers. Workers in the food system–who increasingly work in jobs where more than one employer directs their work–will now face even greater challenges to have a voice.


Several years back, these Bay Area-based janitors held a picket to win higher wages, better working conditions, and freedom from sexual harassment in their workplace. The NLRB ruling stated the picket was illegal and based the decision on the “employment relationship” of the janitors and the company they were targeting.


The janitors were hired by one company (Ortiz Janitorial Services) and subcontracted by a second company (Preferred Building Services) to work in a building of a third company. The workers were essentially joint employees of Ortiz and Preferred, as an administrative law judge determined. The judge made that determination, noting that Preferred was involved in the hiring, firing, disciplining, supervision, direction of work, and other terms and conditions of the janitors’ employment with Ortiz. Therefore, both Ortiz and Preferred acted as joint employers to the janitors.


In the August ruling the NLRB narrowly interpreted the law to argue that the janitors were only employees of Ortiz despite Preferred’s control over the workers. Therefore, should the workers picket Preferred, it is considered a secondary boycott and a violation under the Taft-Hartley Act.


FCWA is in strong opposition because we believe:


  • The ruling is an irresponsible and narrow reading of the law that will result in the loss of the fundamental right of freedom of speech of all workers.

  • The employment relation in question is a form of subcontracting that is increasingly prevalent in all industries, particularly in the food system. This ruling will make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for workers in similar employment schemes to have a voice in their workplace.

  • The Taft-Hartley Act is an anti-worker, anti-freedom of speech legal scheme that must be overturned.


The Food Chain Workers Alliance will continue to support all workers who exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association, regardless of this senseless and discriminatory NLRB ruling.


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Being part of this Alliance has been awesome. We're gonna be noticed. When you bring so many people together for one cause, that's when we make a change.

Ruth Faircloth, Rural and Migrant Ministry

It's gonna take all of us. We really need to start talking amongst each other and getting more organized. Being part of the Food Chain Workers Alliacne is really big for my organization so we can amplify our stories and hopefully bring about change faster.

Dominic Ware, OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart)

I was treated differently after i started organizing to form a union. But it's worth it to fight for equal rights, a better wage and a better future.

Velia Perez, Teamsters Joint Council 7

I think the food movement needs to be much, much broader and the FCWA has made that intersectionality much more visible.

Jen Mendoza, Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center

To know that other organizations are dealing with with the same issues - if we were all able to come together and work as one, I believe that it will change a lot of things.

Tammy Parkes, Rural and Migrant Ministry

Member Organizations


Voices of the Food Chain is a project of the Food Chain Workers Alliance and Real Food Media to capture and share stories of the country’s 20 million food workers in their own words. Including voices of farmworkers, warehouse workers, meatpackers, line cooks, restaurant servers and more, the project features conversations recorded with StoryCorps, black and white portraits, and a video on the current challenges and victories at the intersection of labor and food. Voices of the Food Chain is part of a growing national movement to bring justice to all workers along the food chain.


Produced by Real Food Media
Director & Producer: Emmanuel Camacho
Camera Operator & Sound Recording: Jamie Davalos

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