Leadership Transition: Statements from Joann Lo, Jose Oliva, and Rose Bookbinder (September 5, 2019)

Statement from Joann Lo & Jose Oliva

We are immensely proud to have served as Co-Directors of the Food Chain Workers Alliance for the past 6 years, and before that, Joann served as Executive Director and Jose was a co-founder and board member of the Alliance. We have both dedicated much of our lives to the organization over the course of the last 10 years and know that it is a critical part of the food workers movement today in the U.S. and Canada. 

It is bittersweet to announce now that we are stepping down from our posts and will be fully transitioned out of the organization by the end of October and then continue to support as members of the Alliance’s Advisory Council. We both believe that it’s important to create space for new leaders with new ideas and energy and so we believe it is in the best interest of the Alliance for us to move forward and transition out after a decade with the organization. 

Some of the Alliance’s accomplishments that we are most proud of include: co-organizing one of the largest mass mobilizations of food workers in recent history on May Day of 2017; helping members win campaigns like ROC United’s One Fair Wage in multiple states and independent farmworkers union Familias Unidas por la Justicia winning an historic contract; starting a regional leadership training program for food workers called Justice in the Food Chain; and co-leading and supporting local coalitions around the country to win adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program.

With Gratitude,

Joann Lo & Jose Oliva
Co-Directors, Food Chain Workers Alliance

We are confident that the years to come will see more and greater victories for workers and all people in our food system. With strong leadership from our members, Board of Directors, Advisory Council, and dedicated staff, we are confident that the Alliance is in good hands to continue winning better wages and conditions for food chain workers and a truly sustainable food system well into the future. 

One of the big reasons for the Alliance’s success to date has been the support of allies and friends. We need your continued support as we make this important transition in the Alliance. Please contribute today and help us reach our goal of $65,000! Thank you!

Statement from Board Chair Rose Bookbinder:

It is an honor to serve as the chair of the board of directors at such a pivotal moment of the Alliance’s evolution. 2019 marks 10 years of deepening our relationships in the Alliance and expanding it from 9 original founding members to now 31 organizations and unions, representing over 375,000 food system workers in the USA and Canada. The food industry is the largest sector in the U.S. economy, and yet food workers earn the lowest hourly median wage compared to all other industries. Food system workers are under attack, as we just witnessed in Mississippi where 700 workers in poultry processing plants experienced the largest workplace immigration raid in history. The FCWA responded, and we have been able to raise over $50,000 to support food system workers affected by immigration agencies’ acts of terror. The need to organize and build power in our sector is immense, and the Alliance has positioned itself as the clear place to do that.

We are confident and proud of the FCWA’s foundation, which has allowed our current Co-Directors Joann Lo and Jose Oliva to make the difficult decision to step down from their roles at the end of October. They want to leave at a place of strength and ensure that we are in our best position to succeed in our next phase. They will both continue to support the Alliance in this transition and will serve on our Advisory Council starting next year. 

I want to thank Jose and Joann for their 10 years of incredible service to the Alliance. They both played such formative roles: Jose was initially on staff at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, where he helped bring together the food worker organizations that would become the FCWA; and as the first Executive Director, Joann built the Alliance from the ground up. Together, they have taken a small group of non-profit organizations and linked us together in one cross-border alliance with strategic labor movement and food justice partners, helping to move the fights of our members—fights for dignity, respect, and democracy—from the margins and into the center of public debate and public policy. 

With Joann and Jose at the helm we have accomplished so much in our first decade (look for our 10-year anniversary report coming out next week!) and I admire their commitment to the Alliance and to sharing leadership in making this decision for the next chapter. 

Finally, I am very pleased to announce our new Co-Directors: FCWA’s own Regional Organizer for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region Suzanne Adely and Leadership Development Coordinator Sonia Singh. After consultation with peer Executive Directors and staff and a vetting process and vote by our Board of Directors, Suzanne and Sonia were the best choice to lead FCWA into the future and will start as co-directors on November 1, 2019. That’s the update for now, but please stay tuned—we will have more to share about Suzanne and Sonia in the coming weeks! In the meantime, please consider making a contribution to our transition fund; every gift helps secure our future!

In Solidarity,

Rose Bookbinder
Lead Organizer, Pioneer Valley Workers Center
Chair, Food Chain Workers Alliance Board of Directors