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Meet Our August Impact Partner: Food Chain Workers Alliance

At Furtuna Skin, we’re rooted in science and its ability to enhance the infinite wisdom of nature. We also firmly believe in the responsibility of businesses to self-regulate in order to protect each other and the planet. Which is why, each month, we partner with a new impact organization that shares these same values to raise awareness and money to support their efforts.

In honor of Farmworker Appreciation Day on 8/6, our August impact partner is Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members work 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.

What’s the mission of the Food Chain Workers Alliance?
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 conditions for all workers along the food chain. We're committed to ending the exploitation of food workers and building a sustainable food system grounded in economic and racial justice. By organizing in our workplaces and communities, we can create a food system in which work is valued and respected, workers can share in the wealth of their labor, and workers have the power to shape their working conditions and lives.

How was the Food Chain Workers Alliance born?
Before 2008, organizations of workers along the food chain were looking for ways to integrate their work with the new national interest in food systems. Some had begun talking about ways to collaborate. In January 2008, thanks to a suggestion from Kolu Zigbi with the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United organized a meeting of several of these groups and in May 2008, eight organizations convened at the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit. It was decided that these groups did indeed want to work together, and the real guiding vision was that all of these organizations -- with their high-stakes campaign experience, their membership bases, and their corner of the food chain -- coming together would be a strategic step toward building real power for all workers along the food chain.

18 months of quarterly conference calls continued to illuminate the incredible power that food workers could assert through a coalition of organizations with members across the supply chain including workers in agriculture, processing, distribution, and retail. In July 2009, ROC United raised funds from the Ford Foundation to reconvene once again in Chicago, where the Food ChIan Workers Alliance was officially formed.

The Alliance was formed for two main reasons:
1) Despite the increasing power and influence of the growing "food movement," there was no real attention on the issues facing workers in the food system, and the founders believed that as a national coalition, we could bring worker voices into the food movement, and find ways to work with food and food justice organizations.

2) In face of the increasing corporate consolidation and power over the food system food workers must to join together to challenge corporate control and win power in their workplaces and in their communities.

Now in its twelfth year of operations, the Alliance has 34 member organizations spanning all five sectors of the food chain, and representing a collective membership of approximately 375,000 workers.

What types of programs help our food workers?
The work we do at FCWA to support food workers falls into a few different categories:

Our leadership development work includes popular education webinars, our "Justice in the Food Chain" regional training series, and our new sector-based cohort learning model. All of these programs bring frontline food workers together in small groups to learn the basics of organizing together: What are your rights as a worker? How can you speak up in the workplace? How can you take action collectively with your coworkers? Our theory of change is that the people most directly impacted by the ills of our food and economic systems have the best solutions to the problems these systems create. So this work is key to empowering workers to step into those leadership positions in their workplaces and communities.

FCWA supports and amplifies the worker organizing campaigns of our 34 member groups -- whether that means providing strategic insight for planning, mobilizing people to show up at a direct action, distributing petitions and other materials, or amplifying core messaging to our wider base. FCWA member campaigns could be anything from poultry processing workers in Arkansas fighting against dangerous line speeds, to grocery workers in California demanding COVID-19 hazard pay, to street vendors in NYC fighting to lift the arbitrary caps placed on vending permits by the city. Not only do we support and amplify these campaigns, but when possible, we connect them to each other for strategy support and sharing of resources. We also amplify specific campaigns and food worker issues more broadly, in the media and in reports like our 2021 COVID-19 impact report.

FCWA is also a national partner of the Good Food Purchasing Program, a ten-year old initiative that helps local coalitions across the U.S. win values-based procurement policies in their school system, city, or state. What is values-based procurement? It means that when a public institution like a school system spends money on food, rather than awarding the contract to whomever makes the highest bid, that institution must assess potential suppliers according to 5 core values: fair labor, humane treatment of animals, environmental sustainability, nutrition, and strong local economies.

We intervene in key policy fights, such as the demand for an enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard from federal OSHA to protect all workers (not just workers in the healthcare system); the fight for passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act that will create more employer accountability for anti-union tactics; and the fight against the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) which claims to provide a pathway to citizenship for workers, but will actually expose agricultural workers to further exploitation, while making it harder to organize. In addition to fights on the federal level, we support our members' efforts at the state and local levels, such as the victorious campaign for the New York Health & Essential Rights (HERO) Act that passed last year to create an enforceable health & safety standard for all workers in the state to protect them from COVID-19 as well as future airborne diseases.

Most importantly, by supporting and connecting FCWA members to each other across working sectors and geographical borders, we are building worker solidarity in the food chain. And by building a network of supporters like you, we are building a larger overall movement for food workers.

What can other people do to support our farm workers?
Oppose the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will expose agricultural workers to further exploitation while making it harder for them to organize:

Support the PRO Act, which will protect all workers from anti-union tactics by creating more employer accountability. Sign the AFL-CIO petition here.

Look for local farmworker efforts in your area to support! Many farm workers are fighting for overtime pay and protections from heat stress. For example:

-In Oregon and Washington, some new rules have been released to protect workers from heat stress, but in Washington at least, FCWA member Familias Unidas por la Justicia in Washington says it's not sufficient. California, Minnesota, and Colorado are the only other states with any heat protections for workers. Many workers say that OSHA needs to step in an enact federal heat protections.

-Colorado is the latest state to end the exclusion of agricultural workers from overtime pay that was codified in federal law by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The only other states where farm workers are currently eligible for overtime pay are: New York, California, Minnesota, Washington, and Maryland.
Finally, check out these FCWA members who work with farmworkers -- they might be in your community!

-Alianza Agrícola (NY)
-CATA - The Farmworker Support Committee (NY/NJ)
-Community 2 Community Development (WA)
-Familias Unidas por la Justicia (WA)
-Farm Worker Association of Florida (FL)
-Justicia for Migrant Workers (Toronto, ON)
-Migrant Justice (VT)
-Pioneer Valley Workers Center (MA)
-Rural & Migrant Ministry (NY)
-Trabajadores Unidos por la Justicia (WA)
-Workers' Center of Central New York (NY)
-Worker Justice Center of New York (NY)

Follow & support Food Chain Workers Alliance
Facebook: @foodchainworker 
Twitter: @Foodchainworker 
Instagram: @Foodchainworkers 

In honor of Farmworker Appreciation Day on 8/6, you will have the opportunity to join us further in supporting this important cause. By electing to make a $5 donation at check-out between 8/5-8/12, you will receive 15% off your purchase.


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