Home Food and Farm Labor This Labor Day, Catch Up on Our Food and Farm Worker Reporting

This Labor Day, Catch Up on Our Food and Farm Worker Reporting

Labor Day is often seen as a holiday to mark the end of summer, but the day has its roots in the early labor organizing and worker movements of the 19th century—a time with many similarities to the current moment.

Like the factory and mine workers of that era, today’s food workers—who range from farmworkers to cooks to bicycle delivery people to grocery store clerks—often spend long hours facing grueling, often dangerous, working conditions with little pay while their bosses take home record profits. It’s no coincidence, then, that these workers are coming together in new ways to find their voices, and organize and engage in collective bargaining in numbers many of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

And while they’re facing resistance—such as the recent closures of stores by Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Chipotle that appear to be in response to unionization efforts by workers—it doesn’t seem to be slowing the movement down one bit. Want to dig in further? Here’s a list of some of the best food and labor stories Civil Eats has published this year.

Farmworkers Bear the Brunt of California’s Housing Crisis
Despite $100 million in recent investments, many of the state’s 400,000 to 800,000 farmworkers live in cramped, unsafe conditions.

Many Restaurants Pay Tipped Workers Next to Nothing. Does that Violate their Civil Rights?
Exclusive: Advocates have advanced a lawsuit against Darden, the nation’s largest full-service restaurant company, for racial and sexual discrimination as a result of paying tipped workers below the minimum wage.

New union members at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, New York. (Photo courtesy of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW)

What a Surge in Union Organizing Means for Food and Farm Workers
Amid historic protests, walkouts, and union votes, the pandemic put the impacts of income inequality on stark display—and galvanized a movement.

‘Food Companies Didn’t Get the Memo’—Steven Greenhouse on the Unionization Wave
The ‘father of modern labor journalism’ explores why food system workers are fed up—and why the Starbucks union is such a big deal.

The Fight for L.A.’s Street Food Vendors
Getting a permit is difficult and expensive, and the state food code is prohibitively complex for small-scale vendors. A coalition is working to help protect this important economic and cultural tradition.

An Appharvest employee harvesting tomatoes in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of Appharvest)

What Will the Rise of Giant Indoor Farms Mean for Appalachian Kentucky?
AppHarvest says it’s inventing an industry ‘from scratch,’ but it’s unclear how the upstart will balance its promise to rural people with a move toward automation.

On the Rural Immigrant Experience: ‘We Come With a Culture, Our Own History, and We’re Here to Help’
Organizer Gladys Godinez on the way immigrants change, and are changed by, rural America.

The Next Frontier of Labor Organizing: Food-Delivery Workers
Groups like Los Deliveristas Unidos are organizing delivery workers at Doordash, Uber Eats, and other apps who are demanding better working conditions, despite a lack of employee protections—and often being undocumented.

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