The Food Chain Workers Alliance is 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 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. Currently, FCWA has 31 members representing over 375,000 food workers in the US and Canada.
Prior to 2008, a number of organizations of workers along the food chain had been struggling with ways to integrate their work with the new national interest in food systems, and some had begun talking with each other about possible ways to collaborate with each other.
In January 2008 the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), thanks to a suggestion from a Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation program officer, organized an initial meeting of several organizations and in May 2008 convened eight organizations at the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit. At this meeting, the groups came together to get to know each other better, to share information on their work, and to talk about the idea of collaborating with each other. These groups included ROC United, the Center for New Community, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, el Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas, the International Labor Rights Forum, and the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (NWAWJC). All the groups decided that they did indeed want to work together – the real guiding vision that everybody agreed to at that point was that all of these organizations, with their high-stakes campaign experience, their membership, and their piece of the food chain, coming together would be incredibly strategic to build real power for all the workers along the food chain.
After the Labor Notes conference through quarterly conference calls the organizations continued to share information about their own campaigns and to support each other’s campaigns whenever possible.
The groups then decided to hold an in-person retreat to talk more in-depth about what an alliance could do. Thanks to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which raised funds from the Ford Foundation, nine organizations came together in Chicago in July 2009 to officially create the Food Chain Workers Alliance. In addition to the groups listed above, Just Harvest USA, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 also participated. NWAWJC could not attend but afterwards confirmed their membership in the Alliance.
At the meeting the DataCenter shared research that it had conducted on the work and the demographics of the membership of each organization and the possibility of common corporate targets among all the groups. Then the representatives of the nine organizations spent almost two days sharing experiences and talking about their vision for an alliance. Thus the Food Chain Workers Alliance was born. Check out our Programs for more details on our work!