Working At The Bottom Of The Food Chain


new report from the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that only 13.5 percent of food workers make a liveable wage:

The [report] looks at five aspects of the food industry — food production, processing, distribution, retail, and service — and is filled with data and policy recommendations. Collectively, these five arenas sell over? $1.8 trillion in goods and services annually, accounting for over 13 percent? of the U.S. gross domestic product. And yet front-line workers in the food chain — the ones not in management or office positions — earn a median of $18,889 a year.

Often food workers are paid by piece rate instead of hourly. Maddie Oatman excerpts Tracie McMillan's undercover stint at a garlic farm in The American Way of Eating:

Even though Rosalinda's tarjeta will show that she came in at 5:30 a.m. and left at 2:30 p.m., a nine-hour day, her check will say she was there for two hours—exactly the number of hours she would have had to work at minimum wage ($8) to earn what she made via piece rate ($16). Later, I ask advocates if this is unusual, and everyone shrugs: Not every contractor does it, but they see it regularly. Earning minimum wage at our piece rate would require a speed that seems impossible: five buckets an hour. (In my month in garlic, I do not meet anyone who can average that for an entire day.)