Courtney Hendrix, Communications Specialist
On July 14th, CFJC Executive Director, Y. Armando Nieto (right) spoke at a Unite Here rally at the Oakland International Airport to show support for the non-union food workers at the airport’s food retailers. But also, for food workers everywhere because many of them face the same challenges and more and more they are standing up for their basic rights: to be paid a living wage, receive healthcare for themselves and their family, and receive paid sick days and retirement benefits.
Here in the Bay Area, and across the country, we see a food justice movement that is growing and building momentum. Cross-sectoral collaborations and alliances are being formed and good work is happening— such as, Real Food. Real Jobs. — in creating an equitable food system. Food workers have to be a part of this movement. Institutional food, like universities, hospitals, businesses, airports, and stadiums feed millions of people everyday so our food system cannot be sustainable and equitable if the people preparing and serving our food are being exploited. This has to stop.
It is not ok for businesses to make obscene profits while employees don’t have access to healthcare or childcare, and can hardly afford to feed their families. It is not ok that food workers are disproportionately impacted by hunger and lack of access to nutritious foods. But remember, this struggle is not just yours. You are not alone. We see people rising up across the country. Teachers, transit workers, Wal-Mart workers, and food chain workers in New York, Chicago, Philly, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and other cities are striking against the same injustices: poverty-level wages, no healthcare or benefits, no respect from employees. Thousands of people gather weekly at North Carolina’s State Legislative Building in Raleigh for Moral Mondays. They are protesting to shine the light on the extremely conservative agenda their general assembly is pushing through to dismantle the State’s Constitution.
We see this same agenda being pushed in Congress. CFJC works on the Farm Bill; a trillion dollar bill that funds nutrition and agriculture programs. Over the last 18 months the ultra conservative right has dismantled decades of work of those who have fought to bring equity in food and farm programs. Programs that support farmers markets, farmers of color, beginning farmers, school gardens, fresh foods in schools and other institutions, healthy retail conversion. We have to raise our voice and be our own leaders. We have to show our politicians what change can look like even as we are defining it ourselves. Democracy is not a spectator sport—we have to be engaged.
If we want real change, then we have to continue to call out these injustices and we must be civically and politically active. Because real change will come from the people. When we come together, we have collective power. So for the food workers at Oakland International, and across the country, continue to raise your voice and demand your rights, and know that CFJC and the food justice movement stands in solidarity with your struggle.