If you’ve been to the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market or an OKT event, we may have asked you if you wanted to sign the petition supporting the Local Fresh Fair Fair Food initiative. Here’s some information on the OKT-endorsed campaign, adapted from the Fair Food campaign brochure.
At your favorite restaurant, you ask the waiter, “Do you happen to know if the vegetables in this dish are grown locally?” While perusing fruit at the grocery store, you find yourself wondering, “Just how fresh are these apples?” The local folks promoting the Fair Food campaign think these questions are important.
Buying local, fresh food is a critical part of living a healthy, sustainable life. However, something missing in the discussion. Have you ever thought about the people who provide the produce you buy and eat? The ones who plant it, care for it, and harvest it? Unfortunately, far too many people have never asked if the fresh, local fruits and vegetables they eat are produced fairly.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a report in 2010 on the conditions of seasonal and migrant workers in Michigan showing that workers face unfair pay and recruitment practices, inadequate housing, unsafe work environments, discrimination, and limited access to healthcare, education, and childcare. The conditions that the MCRC found were appalling, and the folks at Fair Food refuse to accept them.
Migrant work is a complicated issue. It is influenced by factors including politics, globalization, the migration of people, agricultural labor practices and standards, and capitalism. However, Fair Food believes that everyone deserves just working conditions, no questions asked. Nothing can be truly sustainable if it is based on the exploitation of others’ labor.
Fair Food calls on you as consumers, as business owners, as people, to examine the way you think about your locally grown food. Can you feel right about enjoying a head of lettuce or pint of blueberries if you know that the people who picked them may not have had access to safe drinking water or toilets while they worked? Or that they were too afraid to make a complaint because they did not want to lose their jobs, and they did not even know their rights as workers?
It is up to you to hold growers and the businesses who buy their products responsible for the food you bring into your home. The next time you’re
craving some fruits or vegetables, don’t forget to check off not only fresh and local, but also fair.
Fair Food Standards
- Farmworkers should get paid a livable wage for their work and receive at least the federal minimum wage. Currently farmworkers are excluded from the federal minimum wage laws, which includes overtime pay requirements.
- Farmworkers should not be subjected to forced labor or debt bondage.
- Farmworkers should have access to educational information about their rights as workers under the law in both English and Spanish. When necessary, translation should also be provided for those whose first language is indigenous.
- Farmworkers should have access to clean water for drinking, bathroom facilities, and regularly scheduled breaks that follow federal standards.
- Farmworkers should not be exposed to pesticide application while working in the fields, should be provided proper protection gear when coming in contact with pesticides and should be provided full disclosure (in English and Spanish) when they are working with produce that has been sprayed with pesticides.
- Farmworkers should be provided just and adequate housing conditions when that is part of the worker contract. Farmworker housing should always be voluntary for workers and not required by employers.
- Farmworkers should not be intimidated or harassed when attempting to organize fellow farmworkers. The right to form a union should apply to
farmworkers. All agricultural employers must provide a mechanism for workers to file any grievances related to the work or working conditions.
- Federal Child Labor Law should be observed unless the children working on the farm are family members of the farm owner.
- Farmworkers should not be harassed, intimidated or discriminated against based on their gender, ethnicity or immigration status.
You can learn more about this local campaign at http://www.localfreshfair.com.