Interest in sustainable, local, organic, and healthy food has been growing tremendously in the past couple of decades. And now, due to the work of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, our member organizations, and many allies, concern about the challenges and opportunities facing food workers is growing. With close to 20 million people working in the food system in the U.S. – the largest private sector employer in the country – food workers have a crucial role to play in improving our economy and the food system.
The Food Chain Workers Alliance therefore set out to map all of the organizations in the U.S. that regularly interact with food workers. What do we mean by “regularly interact”? We define this as organizing, providing services for, and/or advocating on behalf of any sector of workers along the food chain. We divided up organizations into four categories: unions, workers centers, advocacy organizations, and service organizations. Based on a review of their website, interviews, and/or our knowledge of the organization, we put them on our map if we found that a major priority of the organization’s time and resources is focused on food workers.
We found a total of 1,312 organizations that regularly interact with food workers. Of those, 802 are unions (these are mostly local or state affiliates of 15 regional, national, or international unions), 77 are workers centers, 30 are advocacy groups, and 403 are service organizations (these numbers include local offices or affiliates of the latter three). We then classified each organization based on the food sector(s) in which they interact with workers. The core food chain sectors that we used are: agriculture, food processing, transportation and distribution, retail, and food service/restaurants.