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FCWA joins civil rights complaint challenging meat processing corporations

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Black, Latino, and Asian slaughterhouse workers suffered disproportionately as the meat industry scrambled to respond to COVID-19. Now, they’re demanding justice.

Food Chain Workers Alliance and Rural Community Workers Alliance, along with several allies advocating for meat processing workers, filed an administrative civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on July 8 alleging that two major meat processing corporations have engaged in racial discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act through their workplace policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complaint alleges that megacorporations Tyson and JBS have adopted policies that reject critical Centers for Disease Control guidance – social distancing on meat processing lines – to stop the spread of COVID-19 at their processing facilities and that the results of their current operating procedures have a discriminatory impact on the predominantly Black, Latino and Asian workforce at the companies’ plants.

These policies that endanger workers are a deliberate choice by companies to put profit over the lives of workers and their communities – and the demographics of their workforce is no secret to them. An unacceptable number of workers have become sick. If JBS and Tyson will not prioritize the safety of their Black, Latino, and Asian workers, USDA must enforce our basic civil rights laws.

 FCWA Member Rural Community Workers Alliance joined the complaint.

“Over a decade RCWA has been listening to thousands of stories from meat processing plant workers about poor working conditions and labor injustices,” says Axel Fuentes, director of Rural Community Workers Alliance

“During COVID-19 once again the meat industry discriminates against their workers which in most cases are people of color in their plants and are not allowing them to have a physical distancing to prevent spreading the virus, while their corporate officers and managers, who are mostly white, can either work from home or safely practice distancing on the job.”

The administrative complaint is filed with the USDA, because each of these megacorporations received significant sums of public contracts through USDA. It is also imperative that Congress act to ensure that OSHA does the job it was created to do and issue enforceable standards to protect all workers.

 Take Action

  • Sign our petition urging Congress to act to protect all workers and compel OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard
  • Stand with poultry workers organizing for increased protections. Sign Venceremos’s letter calling on Governor Asa Hutchinson to protect workers by ordering the shutdown of meat processing plants in Arkansas where workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

News Round Up

Washington Post

NYT

The Hill

Bloomberg Law

JS Online

Green Bay Press Gazette

FCWA Job Announcement: Lead Organizer

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Food Chain Workers Alliance

Job Announcement: Lead Organizer

The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) is a bi-national coalition of 33 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.

FCWA members organize locally and collectively to build a system that values and respects food workers and ensures that they share in the wealth of their labor and have the power to shape their working conditions and their lives. We believe this change is only possible with worker-based organization, worker solidarity, and the leadership of people of color, immigrants, women, and other frontline workers in alliance with a larger food movement grounded in social, racial and environmental justice. The Alliance has worked to fulfill this mission through worker-based organizing, worker leadership development, and critical policy innovations and interventions.

We are seeking to hire an experienced organizer to co-lead our expanding organizing program alongside our members and our current organizing team. The ideal candidate has a demonstrated commitment to worker and racial justice with experience in worker-based, community-based and/or union organizing. Read more below.

Main Responsibilities include:

  • Build Food Chain Workers Alliance’s organizing program with support from co-directors.
  • Work with member committees, the FCWA board, and current staff organizing team to identify, develop, and implement new member-driven organizing opportunities and collective campaigns.
  • Work with FCWA organizing team to provide strategic support to food workers organizing among our membership base.
  • Co-facilitate FCWA member movement building committee to help shape the strategic direction of our work.
  • Support the FCWA Growth and Learning programs to build the organizing skills and the leadership of food workers, including regional training and our annual leader summit.
  • Facilitate cross-member solidarity through coordinating sector calls, organizing skill-shares and webinars, and organizer roundtables
  • Support the growth of both our member groups and new food worker organizations
  • Working with FCWA Co-Directors to develop and support a new regional organizer program

Our IDEAL CANDIDATE will possess the following:

  • A minimum of 5-years of experience in grassroots organizing, with a strong preference for prior experience in workers’ rights organizing, whether through unions or worker centers.
  • Demonstrated ability of meaningful engagement with marginalized workers and communities including immigrant, women, people of color, and/or gender non-conforming people.
  • Demonstrated commitment to building racial and social justice centered in worker leadership, community organizing, and popular education.
  • Experience building multi-racial and diverse coalitions and campaign strategies that center worker or directly affected community members’ leadership
  • Experience designing and facilitating organizing training using popular education methodologies
  • Ability to travel several times per year
  • Good time management skills and ability to prioritize tasks
  • Detail-oriented and ability to work under pressure
  • Strong interpersonal skills and verbal communication skills
  • High levels of self-motivation and independence, as well as the ability to work as a team
  • Ability and willingness to occasionally work non-traditional hours such as nights and weekends
  • Bi- or multi-lingual (oral and written) in Spanish and/or another language is a plus

The location for this position is flexible, though ideally it will be based in a region where there are current or potential FCWA members. Ideally, the position will begin in early August 2020, but the start date is flexible.

COMPENSATION: Competitive salary commensurate with experience and excellent benefits package.

The FCWA is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages people of color, immigrants, women, non-binary, and LGBTQ individuals to apply.

TO APPLY: Submit resume and cover letter, including salary expectations, by July 15, 2020 to: info@foodchainworkers.org

May Day: Food Workers Fight Back

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On MAY DAY we honor and support all workers mobilizing in the form of strikes, rallies, slow-downs, call-outs and other actions throughout the globe. 

In the time of COVID-19 the state and the larger public are finally recognizing the labor of over 22 million workers that keep the food supply chain running. Yet, food workers are still being treated as disposable. Workers throughout this food supply chain are exploited by the #COVID19 crisis & the pre-existing conditions of the profit-driven food economy.  Food workers are organizing to win safe conditions during COVIDs and these fights are sowing the seeds for the power we need to transform the food system in the long run.

On May Day 2020 we support local and global calls for workers to take action and use their power as workers to build a world where the labor of all workers is valued.

FOOD WORKER MAY DAY ACTIONS

Please support these May Day actions organized by FCWA members and other food workers!  And sign on and share FCWA’s demands by sending a letter to Congress today.

Pioneer Valley Workers Center  

May Day Caravan

Holyoke and Springfield, Massachusetts

Come out on International Workers’ Day! We will have two caravans! One at 2PM starting at the Holyoke Mall Sears Parking Lot and one at 4PM in Springfield starting at Brightwood Health Clinic. We will drive together in caravan to a number of stops to to show solidarity with essential workers and lift up workers’ demands in a time of crisis.

Migrant Justice

Primero de Mayo / May Day Car Rally for Essential Workers

Burlington, Vermont

Come out on International Worker’s Day! Meet in the Staples parking lot in Burlington (I-89 14W) and then drive together in caravan to a number of stops to to show solidarity with essential workers and lift up workers’ demands in a time of crisis.

National strike by Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, and FedEx workers! 

Across the country!

Workers across the country will be walking out or calling in sick. Support workers and don’t cross the picket line!

Cooperation Jackson

May Day Caravan

Jackson, MS

Cooperation Jackson is joining the People’s Strike Call to Action, based on our initial call to action issued on March 31st, 2019.

We will be conducting a car caravan to encourage people to protect themselves from the deadly decisions being made by the government and the forces of capital. Join us in demanding #NoWork #NoRent #NoShopping on #MayDay2020

 

Laundry Workers Center

May Day’s Caravan for Our Lives

New York City

The caravan will show solidarity with working and oppressed people across New York City, especially hospital, transit, grocery & incarcerated workers at the front line of this crisis, and lay the blame where it belongs: at the doorsteps of Trump, DeBlasio, Cuomo and Wall Street.

Laundry Workers Center

May Day Cacerolazo!

New Jersey

ÚNASE A NOSOTROS PARA CACEROLAZO EN NJ! ⁣Este viernes 1 de mayo DIA DE LOS TRABAJADORES a las 2 p.m. estaremos pegando nuestras ollas y sartenes para exigir #Recovery4All.⁣

Farmworker Association of Florida

Caravan to Support Workers/Caravana para apoyar trabajadores

Apopka, Florida

Join a press conference and a caravan of cars to the local nearby hospital to highlight farmworkers and health care workers as “essential workers” in this time of the pandemic crisis.

Federation of Commerce

En santé et sécurité du travail: Solidaires plus que jamais!

Quebec, Canada

Join a webinar to talk about mobilization strategies in regards to worker health and safety in Quebec.

Warehouse Workers for Justice

Songs of Solidarity Virtual Concert

If you missed it the first time we will be rebroadcasting our Songs of Solidarity virtual concert on May Day! You can watch the show via facebook live at the Warehouse Workers For Justice facebook page!

International Labor Rights Forum

International Workers’ Day: Farmworkers Demand Justice in Honduras

On May Day – International Workers’ Day – hear from farmworkers and trade unionists in Honduras who are fighting for justice on the farms of multinational corporation Fyffes, the number one supplier of melons to the U.S. market. Melon pickers are “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic and yet the billion-dollar Fyffes corporation refuses to give them face masks and gloves, and has not implemented any social distancing on overcrowded company buses.

Fair World Project

Tell Fyffes: Melon Pickers Are Not Expendable!

It is high time that Fyffes answer the demands of workers. Send a message to Fyffes today telling them to negotiate in good faith with the workers’ union STAS to sign a legally-binding, enforceable agreement to uphold workers’ rights.

Community to Community Development

Caravan to Olympia for Excluded Farmworkers!

Join us in the capitol on International Worker’s Day to call attention to the state’s negligence of farmworker health and safety. As has happened so often in the past, farmworkers are expected to risk their lives during this crisis to bring food to our tables. Farmworkers are an essential workforce but they continue to be treated as expendable.

#CampesinosEsenciales2020 #MerezcoVivir #ManzanaoMuerte #EssentialFarmworkers2020 #DeserveToLive #ApplesOrDeath

LA Street Vendors

de Mayo Caravana Para Justicia de Vendedores Ambulantes

Los Angeles

Street vendors from across the City are uniting to demand relief NOW, and to uplift a debt free future that supports them in participating in the legal vending program. From the SF Valley to Hollywood, South Central, and East Los Angeles, street vendors will be driving into City Center to demand:

  • Cancelation of Rent and Mortgages
  • NO Criminalization of street vending
  • Cash Assistance for Undocumented Workers
  • Reimbursement of Permit Fees

UFCW Local 770

May Day 2020 – Demand Safety for Essential Grocery Workers

Los Angeles

Essential Workers need your support Come show them solidarity on International Workers Day! This is a drive-through and honk action, please drive in front of Ralphs on Sunset Blvd and Poinsettia (7257 W. Sunset Blvd. LA, CA 90046) anytime between 10:00am to 11:00am and honk or make noise as you drive in front of the store.

 

Trump is putting workers’ lives at risk in the interest of protecting massive food corporations’ profits

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Tuesday, April 29th – Trump is putting workers’ lives at risk in the interest of protecting massive food corporations’ profits.

President Donald Trump announced that he will use the Defense Production Act to declare meat-processing plants “essential infrastructure,” forcing beef, egg, poultry and pork plants to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country at least 6,500 meat processing employees have been impacted by the virus, meaning they are either sick or in isolation. A reported 20 food processing workers have died as a result of being exposed to COVID-19 on the job.

Sending workers back into unsafe workplaces without adequate protection is completely unacceptable and will lead to more worker illness and worker deaths. Workers’ health must be a priority over the profits of large food corporations.

In 2019 the Trump administration and USDA already began waiving  regulations limiting meat-processing line speeds, increasing the risk of severe injury, and have continued to grant these waivers as the pandemic rages on.

Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has also failed to ensure workers are protected from the virus and its impacts, refusing to issue mandatory health and safety standards for employers that require companies to protect frontline food chain workers and other workers at risk. With the refusal to issue Emergency Temporary Standards, OSHA has allowed companies to continue to evade responsibility for worker deaths and exposure to illness.

“Sending meatpacking workers back to work without protections and mandatory standards is sending workers to die or to get sick,” says Axel Fuentes of the Rural Community Workers Alliance (RCWA). RCWA has filed a lawsuit against a Smithfield plant in an effort to force the company to protect workers’ health and safety. “If we have to fight in courts to make only one plant to provide safety equipment to workers, can you imagine what will be required to compel other employers to act?”

The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) is an alliance of 33 food worker organizations in the food supply chain. “We call on our elected leaders to take steps to protect the health and safety of food processing workers over profits,” says Suzanne Adely, FCWA Co-Director. “We demand that OSHA immediately issue a strong and enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard, and call on Congress to compel OSHA to act in the face of this health and safety and public health emergency.”

Contact: info@foodchainworkers.org

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT FOOD WORKERS

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Food workers are still on the job throughout every sector of the food supply chain, providing essential services for the public in this moment of crisis and every day. Yet while corporations are profiting off this crisis, food workers are on the front lines facing dangerous working conditions, a loss of wages, and a lack of access to healthcare.

Here are 5 things you can do to support food workers NOW:

  1. CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO ACT to ensure sick days, healthcare, worker protections, and income for all workers.Sign our petition here.
  1. DEMAND BIG FOOD CORPORATIONS provide sick pay, hazard pay, family leave, and respect the right to organize. Here are just a few petitions started by food workers and food worker organizations:
  1. SUPPORT FOOD WORKER ORGANIZING 
  1. DONATE TO DIRECT NEEDS, FOOD WORKER FUNDS 

5. SUPPORT AND SHARE RESOURCES with food workers in your community

Thank you for supporting food worker organizing!

What food workers on the front lines need RIGHT NOW

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Food workers who serve, deliver, distribute, process and harvest our food are doing critical work in this moment of crisis and everyday. Food workers are still on the job throughout the food chain. Every aspect of the food supply chain are essential services for the public and recognized as such in many government orders. This is highlighting what food workers have been saying for years — our work makes it possible for the world to eat.

Yet, food workers on the front line are facing dangerous working conditions, a loss of wages, and a lack of access to healthcare, while many corporations are profiting off this crisis. Urgent action is needed by all levels of government to protect food workers and not just big business, now and in the long-term. 

HEALTH & SAFETY OF WORKERS MUST BE A PRIORITY 

Even with the enormous job loss taking place, food workers around the country are still working shoulder to shoulder on food processing lines and in warehouses, farmworkers are still planting and harvesting food, food workers are delivering food. Many food workers in rural and urban areas are going to work with no instructions on how to keep themselves safe and without adequate protective gear.

  • Employers must provide workers with accurate and current information on how to protect themselves and their communities from the virus in a language they understand, that is culturally appropriate, and at a literacy level that is appropriate. 
  • Employers must guarantee safe workplaces, including providing all necessary protective equipment, frequent and regular hand-washing breaks, and the required space for “social distancing.”  Farmworkers must be provided easy access to clean and a sufficient amount of water at close proximity to the work site.
  • The same health & safety information and protective equipment must be given to workers in crowded and substandard employer-provided housing.
  • OSHA must issue an emergency standard for infectious diseases to ensure that workers will be protected from all infectious diseases in their workplaces, including COVID-19.

FAIR WORKING CONDITIONS 

We also recognize that this is a time of great disruption to the lives of working people. Workers should not have to choose between keeping their jobs and taking care of themselves and their families. 

  • All workers must have access to free testing, healthcare coverage, and paid sick days regardless of status and size of workplace, including workers in the US and Canada country on H-2A or migrant worker visas.
  • A minimum of 15 paid sick days per year leave for all workers regardless of size of workplace, and additional paid leave for all workers. 
  • Additional paid sick days for all workers when there is a public health emergency.
  • H-2A workers that are currently working in the US (and migrant workers working under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Canada) and who become ill must be assured not only free health care, but  with no penalties for inability to complete a contract due to the illness. They must be provided all important information about safety and security relative to their safe transportation back to their home country. Guestworkers awaiting arrival in the U.S. and Canada to begin work, must be provided all relevant information regarding health and safety protections and measures. 
  • Workers should be afforded Paid Family Leave as needed 
  • Workers in industries like retail, warehousing and distribution, delivery, that are expanding their hours and work during this time should make overtime voluntary, and guarantee overtime pay.
  • All food workers continuing to provide essential services should be entitled to receive hazard pay, at a premium of time and a half. 

SUPPORT WORKERS FACING JOB LOSS & WAGE LOSS 

For millions of workers, including food workers, there is enormous job and wage loss. With the majority of food workers already living paycheck to paycheck with low wages, this presents an immediate and long-term crisis. Restaurant workers, reliant on tips to survive, are now facing the financial repercussions of business closings or operating only on take-out. 

At the same time, workers need the ability to stop working due to safety concerns, the need to care for family members, or their own health, and still get paid regardless of their immigration status or job classification, now and for the many months this crisis may last. Federal, state and local governments must ensure that workers receive the supplemental income they need in the form of: 

  • Expanded access to unemployment insurance regardless of immigration or employment status through a clear and easy process. 
  • Cash grants and other subsidies must be offered to workers facing wage loss, with clear and easy access, covering full replacement of wages, and regardless of employment or immigration status.
  • We also support the call to offer monthly cash payments to all U.S. Households to support workers and their families during this crisis. 
  • We also support the call for cash grants and other financial assistance to support small businesses from street vendors, to bodegas, to local eateries.
  • Immediate Moratorium on rent, mortgage payments, loan payments, and no utility shut offs. NO MORE DEBT
  • Immediate Moratorium on the Public Charge Rule which would disqualify immigrants who use public assistance from obtaining permanent residency status. 

*All corporations in the food economy who will continue to profit in the millions, billions and trillions should continue to pay their workers during this time of wage loss. The government should make it a condition of any bail-outs to businesses that the company continues to pay workers throughout the crisis.

IMMIGRATION & UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS 

First and foremost, ALL OF THESE BENEFITS MUST BE MADE AVAILABLE TO ALL WORKERS REGARDLESS OF STATUS! We also call for:

  • An Immediate moratorium on all immigration enforcement, including repatriations and deportations of guest workers and non-status migrants  
  • An Immediate release of all immigration detainees from detention centers and detention camps and adequate health services for all. 
  • A removal of restrictions on work permits for guest workers and migrant workers who have been laid off or terminated  

STREET VENDORS 

Street vendors are generally not eligible for state-sponsored benefits or support like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance, or even small business relief funds. For workers in informal economies, this is a dire situation, leaving many with fear and confusion as to how they will support themselves and their families in the days, weeks and months to come. These low-wage immigrant workers rely on busy streets in order to survive day to day. Without a safety net to fall back on, they are forced to continue to work, with little returns, and risking their health and wellbeing in the process. We join Street Vendors in New York City and elsewhere calling for:

  • Waiving all late penalties for late tax filings   
  • Immediate suspension of city and state enforcement of street vendor compliance violations – regardless of whether the vendor has a permit or a license.   
  • Waiver of outstanding tickets issued since January 2020, as vendors won’t be able to work for the foreseeable future.   
  • Create and expand granting opportunities for low-income sole proprietors for street vendors and other small business 
  • Ensure street vendors and delivery workers are included in city child care plan for frontline workers   
  • Ensure workers who are employed by food cart or truck owners, including undocumented workers, are eligible for unemployment insurance and any forthcoming emergency relief funds 

 

RIGHT TO ORGANIZE

This moment is illuminating what is always true, that the food industry is one of the most exploitative industries in the world and food workers are too often treated as disposable. 

We must demand: 

  • An expansion of protection of the right to organize, enabling food workers to meaningfully exercise their labor rights, to protect themselves and their communities. 

 

 

 

FOOD WORKERS ON THE FRONT LINE OF PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS NEED URGENT PROTECTIONS

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Food workers are on the front line of the current public health crisis and the resulting economic crisis surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, along with other precarious workers. Food workers who serve, deliver, distribute, process and harvest our food are doing critical work and are not in a position to follow public health guidance to work from home or maintain social distance, and are very unlikely to have access to paid sick days.

The pandemic is illustrating how strong social safety nets, workplace protections, and public health measures benefit everyone. We know that food workers who don’t have paid sick days and cannot count on other workplace protections, potentially put consumers at risk when they are forced to come to work when they are ill.

Furthermore, many food workers are already working in dangerous and low-paid jobs, or, like restaurant workers, reliant on tips to survive and now facing the financial repercussions of slow business and numerous cancelled events. Food workers who deliver food or groceries through the gig economy are often misclassified as independent contractors and frequently do not have access to workplace protections, paid sick days, or unemployment insurance. The broken healthcare system in the US means many food workers do not have access to health insurance and quality healthcare. For farmworkers who work seasonally, there may be no work to go back to by the time the crisis lifts. 

Data shows that workers of color are far more likely to be paid poverty-level wages than white workers, meaning the impact of this crisis on them and their families is likely to be greater.  

In the supply chains of multinational corporations around the world, workers are producing food destined for supermarkets and restaurants in our communities. From melon workers in Honduras to seafood industry workers in Thailand, many of these workers are denied their internationally-recognized rights to freedom of association, which makes it all the harder for them to raise their voices when they do not have paid sick leave.

FCWA members, and other food workers nationally, are lifting up and winning important demands in this critical moment. 

It is urgent that all levels of government act quickly to ensure that food workers and all workers are guaranteed:

  • A minimum of 15 paid sick days per year leave for all workers regardless of size of workplace, and additional paid leave for all workers
  • Additional paid sick days for all workers when there is a public health emergency.
  • Safe workplaces and fair working conditions, including adequate safety equipment for workers free of charge.
  • The protection and expansion of the right to organize, enabling food workers to meaningfully exercise their labor rights
  • Access to an emergency fund for those who are experiencing a loss or interruption of earnings, regardless of immigration status 
  • Access to unemployment insurance regardless of immigration or employment status 
  • Healthcare for all, regardless of immigration status
  • A halt on evictions and utility shut-offs
  • Immediate moratorium on all immigration enforcement, including repatriations and deportations of guest workers and non-status migrants   
  • A removal of restrictions on work permits for guest workers and migrant workers who have been laid off or terminated 
  • Special supports for workers in crowded and substandard employer-provided housing
  • Financial support for small businesses who experience hardship as a result of the public health crisis.

Further resources: 

 

Photo: United Workers

FCWA STANDS WITH FARMWORKER MEMBERS IN OPPOSING THE FARM WORKFORCE MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2019

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Photo: Farmworker Association of Florida

The FCWA opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act because we believe it will set dangerous precedents, divide workers, and ultimately make conditions even more difficult for farmworkers across the country.

Please help us make sure the Farm Workforce Modernization Act does not become law and sign and share our petition urging representatives to oppose the bill.


 

On November 12, 2019, H.R. 5038 – The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 was introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren of California. The bill introduces a process for farmworkers to access permanent residency status and also amends regulations for workers who work in agriculture under the H-2A program.

The Bill passed in the House by a vote of 260-165 on December 11, 2019. It was received in the Senate on December 12, 2019 and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Senate committee hearings have not yet been scheduled.

Many of our farmworker members have a long history of organizing with farmworkers across the US and Canada and supporting workers to improve their wages and working conditions. As an Alliance, we believe that regardless of immigration status, all farmworkers deserve dignity, respect, and full protection on the job and in the communities in which their families reside. It is our belief that our movement should be guided by this vision of expanding access to rights and protection for all workers, especially the right to organize. 

This bill moves in the opposite direction. It does not include the right to organize for farmworkers. It excludes many workers from “blue card” status, sets up a very long path to get residency status, and requires farmworkers to continue working in agriculture for up to 8 years to qualify. It expands the H-2A program without providing necessary oversight or adequate protections, and will serve to further divide farm workers against one another based on their immigration status. Many of our farmworker members have the following critiques of the bill:

PATH TO LEGAL STATUS IS LIMITED, COMPLEX AND EXCLUDES MANY CURRENT FARMWORKERS

The bill introduces a complicated process to access residency status that will exclude many current farmworkers and their families. For those workers who would be eligible, the bill requires workers to continue working for a long period (up to 8 more years) in agriculture to qualify. 

THE BILL EXPANDS A FLAWED H-2A PROGRAM 

Many of our farmworker members organize with guestworkers or are seeing increasing numbers of guestworkers enter their regions and sectors and with that an increase in exploitation for both H-2A workers and domestic workers. H-2A workers’ immigration status is tied to one employer and workers are isolated in rural farming locations with little access to support, making it much more challenging to speak out about exploitation. Furthermore, workers in the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program have often paid significant sums to recruiters to obtain jobs, visas, and transportation. This current legislation does not jointly hold employers and recruiters liable for violations. When H-2A workers do report violations, they often face retaliation, including repatriation to their home countries. Despite this, we have seen many H-2A workers and guestworkers courageously come together to expose wage theft, health and safety violations, and other issues in their workplaces. 

The bill as negotiated increases some limited protections for H-2A workers, but it also weakens other hard fought protections that are already in place, such as a 1-year freeze of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. As negotiated, the current bill expands an exploitative program without the serious overhaul and oversight of the program that is needed. We believe we should strongly oppose employers using immigration laws to exploit and divide workers. Both guest workers and undocumented workers should have access to permanent status. 

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives added a rider (section 533) to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 3931) that if approved would expand the H-2A program to year-round work, with no reforms made to the program. This is a direct response to lobbying from agricultural employers, especially the dairy industry, who for years have been pushing for expansion of the program. Some advocates are suggesting that H.R. 5038 would counteract and replace this harmful rider. It is our view that H.R. 5038 is simply not strong enough to do so and we should oppose any legislation that does not provide stronger rights on the job for farmworkers and guestworkers and oversight over their conditions. 

The current proposed changes only reinforce the significant power imbalance between employers and workers. We strongly stand against any system of indentured servitude and believe all agricultural labourers should be treated with fairness and dignity and no worker should be disposable to serve the interests of the agricultural industry. 

REQUIRING E-VERIFY IN AGRICULTURE WILL HURT FARMWORKERS AND SETS UP A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT

E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. For most employers, E-Verify is voluntary and currently, there are no entire industries that are required under law to use E-Verify.  E-Verify unduly places a heavier burden on workers than on growers to comply and leaves workers vulnerable to fraud. We strongly oppose the collection of data that could one day be used to criminalize workers. Beyond the incredibly harmful impact this will have on farmworkers, granting this concession sets up a very harmful precedent for other immigration reform measures in the future. 

INJURED FARMWORKERS ARE EXCLUDED

Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries for workers, yet this bill will exclude the hundreds of thousands of undocumented farmworkers who have been injured on the job and who will therefore not qualify for residency status. While the bill contains some language regarding workplace safety and prevention of sexual harassment, there is no mechanism or funding in place for tracking and enforcement, nor is there any language around provision of healthcare. The bill does not address how guestworkers are often repatriated and blacklisted after they are injured. 

Finally, as our members have noted, there is no provision for the right to strike, the right to join a union, or the right to bargain collectively as a counterbalance to employers’ control over workers. 

For all of these reasons, the FCWA opposes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. We call on our allies to join us in taking action to ensure this bill does not pass. 

  1. Sign and share our petition urging representatives to oppose FWMA.
  2. Share our message that #FarmworkersDeserveBetter in your networks.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Download the FCWA’s full statement on FWMA here:

Read statement’s from our members and from other allies on the harmful impact of FWMA:

CATA

Community to Community Development

Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Farmworker Association of Florida

UFCW

 

 

Support Striking Meatpackers at Olymel!

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On Day One of Food Workers Rising, we are asking you to support 350 striking food workers in Princeville Quebec!

Meatpacking workers at Olymel have been on strike since October 29. The Quebec-based company is the largest hog producer in Canada. Workers at the Princeville Olymel plant took a $5.40 paycut in 2005 to help the company keep it’s plant doors open. But workers have not seen a fair share of Olymel’s record profits since then and are calling for a fair raise. 

TAKE ACTION

Meat processing is one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the food industry. Can you support the 350 Olymel striking workers by making a call to Olymel CEO today? 

Call Olymel’s head office at: 1 800 361-7990 EXT 3123

Or send a message to the company here: 

Sample message:

“I am calling to support the striking Olymel workers in Princeville. They work hard to make Olymel profitable and deserve a fair wage.”

The 350 striking workers are members of the Federation of Commerce (FC-CSN), one of our newest FCWA members. Federation of Commerce represents 28,000 workers including those employed at grocery stores, warehouses, meatpacking and food processing across the province of Quebec.

Help us get the word on social media to support striking Olymel workers and stay tuned for Day 2 of Food Workers Rising!

Restaurant Workers are on the Cover of Time Magazine

By | Front Page, News | No Comments

It centers around Christina Munce, a tipped worker and ROC member who earns $2.83 an hour as a server at Broad Street Diner in Philadelphia, PA. Her story is all too familiar to restaurant workers: earning a subminimum wage, relying on tips as income, and working unstable hours.

For months, ROC worked with reporters for The Fuller Project, which partnered with Time Magazine on the story, introducing them to workers and providing data on the restaurant industry. The result: a compelling article that shows the importance of One Fair Wage and our campaign to level the playing field in our economy, including the recent historic passage of the Raise the Wage Act in the US House of Representatives.

The Raise the Wage Act calls for a $15 minimum wage for all workers, including those who rely on tips, and represented for the first time since Emancipation that either house of Congress voted to eliminate the subminimum wage — a legacy of slavery — for tipped workers. 

Read the entire article here, and share it with your friends!

In Solidarity,

ROC United

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