Sign the letter today! Protect Michigan Farmworker Minimum Wage

Sign it here! Deadline May 15.NINO

The right to a minimum wage is one of the most basic and fundamental protections a worker can count on in the workplace. Agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable and often-exploited workers, doing one of the most dangerous, and essential jobs, in today’s economy. Michigan’s Wage and Hour laws are meant to offer stateside protection to workers where the federal government will not. Until very recently, this included agricultural workers on Michigan’s small farms. However, on December 19, 2017, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette changed that.

AG Opinion #7301, reinterprets a part of Michigan’s minimum wage laws (known as the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA)) as excluding workers on Michigan’s small farms from minimum wage protections. In his opinion, the former Attorney General concluded, “This construction of subsection 10(1)(b) has the effect of leaving some employees without a right to a minimum hourly wage under the WOWA (or the FLSA).” The interpretation reversed a decade-long understanding, one confirmed by the legislative history surrounding the section’s passage, that this subsection offered minimum wage protection to all workers, including those on small farms.

While the former Attorney General did not change his position, there’s a new AG in charge. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, at the direction of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, has asked Attorney General Dana Nessel to reconsider AG #7301.

UPDATE: Attorney General Dana Nessel has accepted this request and asks for public comments through mid-May as she prepares to make a decision. Support this request by signing your organization, your business, your church or faith community, or just yourself to this letter. The signature period closes on Wednesday, May 15.

Local collaborative releases Environmental Justice Report

report cverOver the past few years, Our Kitchen Table has joined with other Grand Rapids area agencies and nonprofits to form the Grand Rapids Environmental Justice Collaborative with the goal of developing a comprehensive report on local EJ issues. Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice‘s Guy Williams provided great direction. You can read the full report here.

The Environmental Justice Collaborative’s report will give the city of Grand Rapids’ officials and leaders a baseline. It will paint a picture of where the city is today as far as environmental inequities impacting its most vulnerable residents, most often people of color. And, it will present a vision for a future — hopefully a near future — that creates a healthier, safer, life-affirming environment for everyone living in  the greater Grand Rapids area.


President’s Budget Proposes Elimination of WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Posted from The Farmers’ Market Coalition 

by Ben Feldman, FMC Executive Director |

ProjectFresh_logo_547746_7Earlier this week, the President’s FY 2020 budget was released, proposing significant cuts to USDA programs, including eliminating funding for the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP).

While farmers market programs fare better than in previous presidential budget proposals, eliminating WIC FMNP would undermine years of work to ensure that low income families, particularly women and children, have access to healthy produce from America’s family-owned farms.

Each year, WIC FMNP directly connects over a 1.5 million low income families to 17,000 independent farmers at local farmers markets nationwide. The impact of the program cannot be understated. When WIC FMNP was created in 1992, it was the first program of its kind, and the first time that the WIC program included fresh fruits and vegetables.

Still today, WIC FMNP provides an additional 67 million servings of fruits and vegetables each year to low income, pregnant women and children – healthy produce that they otherwise may not have been able to put on their tables. Scientific research supports this idea, and has shown that WIC FMNP increases access to, and consumption of, produce among WIC families.

For farmers markets and farmers, the program represents meaningful income that helps to keep them in business. Greenmarkets, a New York City based non-profit market operator estimates that the elimination of the WIC FMNP program would force the closure of 13 of their farmers markets, while in Washington state, markets have estimated that 400 jobs would be lost without WIC FMNP.

In short, not only does the program provide more healthy food for our most vulnerable neighbors, it stimulates real economic growth for local farmers and businesses.

While Congress, not the president, actually sets federal spending, the proposal to eliminate WIC FMNP sends a clear message that the best interests of low income families and local farmers are not priorities of the administration.

Within the coming days, FMC will be working with congressional champions to demonstrate support for the program on Capitol Hill. In the meantime please contact your legislators to let them know how the elimination of WIC FMNP would impact your market.

Together, we can stand up for this important program.