Corporate Vs Labor Profits

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Roughly 30 years ago, profits between the corporations and the laborers were fairly equal when it came to the food system. However, in more recently years, corporations have begun to earn nearly triple the amount of their working counterparts, in addition to food prices rising. The inequality is clear, and the treatment behind the labor conditions is clear as well.
Consumers have a choice when it comes to purchasing food. Although it may be slightly more expensive to purchase food that comes from companies that support human rights, the satisfaction of purchasing this is immense. There are people out there suffering to produce food for the world, and more often than not, they lack adequate funds to support themselves, in addition to their families.

Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance

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As alternatives to conventional produce, and organic produce, there are still options to purchasing justly produced food.

Fair Trade is an international treaty in a sense that works on trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect. Essentially, the goal is to have sustainably produced food in addition to bettering the conditions for marginalized workers and producers. When purchasing fair trade, the consumer is essentially supporting the idea that the people who produce our global food supply also deserve respect, and have a goal for creating a just global food system.

Rainforest Alliance is similar however focuses much more on the idea of keeping the environment clean and not destroying the rainforests. Much of the rainforest alliance focuses on coffee prices, and how it is produced in a sense that it tries to protect the environment and rainforests. The main focus is on building a green community amongst the producers of products, in essence to jump start their local economy.

http://fairtradeusa.org/
http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/

The Typical Farm Laborer

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Conditions for farm laborers are almost always less than humane. They are often exposed to hazardous chemicals day after day, and lack health benefits to help take care of their ailments. A laborer works every day with their hands, and it is extremely rough on their bodies. The lack of health care in addition to their low wages do not allow them to take care of themselves. Rather than being able to go to their family doctors over a small ailments, people with no health care are forced to push through, which can often times lead to larger, possibly life threatening injuries. From this, they can be forced to go to the hospital where health bills are extremely expensive, in which they have no money to fund their visits. This whole idea contributes to the cycle of poverty where workers just cannot get ahead and are stuck in poverty for much of their lives.
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Farm Laborers are often uneducated and already looking for a job, therefore they do whatever is possible. Many are migrant workers, who in fact are working legally given many policies that allow for seasonal workers. Ironically, the measly income that one brings in is often times not even enough to pay for the food that they are harvesting. Because of this, workers are often on government funded programs for food, and if they aren't, they often times live off of food shelves. This is a major juxtaposition in that for someone who is working on the food system can't even afford to eat the own food they're helping to produce.

Organic Vs Conventional Labor

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Upon initially researching such topic, one would think that there would be a difference amongst each type of labor practice. Organic farming and labor seems to be much more just, especially due to the additional price the consumer. However, this is not the case at all. In fact, both organic and conventional labor use both migrant workers, and pay low wages at the same rate. Both forms of farms are owned by capitalist minded businesses that wish to maximize there profits. From this, farmers believe in agricultural exceptionalism, in which owners believe that food labor practices are different from that of other labor practices, and therefore should not have to follow by the same human rights qualifications. This idea forces owners to respect profits over workers rights, and push their laborers to the edge, often times inuring injuries.
As a whole, for a consumer to purchase truly just food where laborers are treated respectfully and paid a sufficient wage, the consumer should look into Rainforest Alliance certified food, or fairtrade foods. Although they are more expensive, a consumer can know that they are not supporting slave labor. Another legitimate option is purchasing only local foods, but this can cause for certain foods to be unavailable during certain times of the year.whose food real 1.jpg

Diagram from http://urbanhabitat.org/node/6274

Why is this important?

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The food system is relatively invisible to many consumers today. People go to the grocery store, purchase the products that they need or want, and go home, no questions asked. However, there is much more behind our food system than what is seen at a grocery store. Amongst all jobs in the United States, careers in the food industry are 5 of the 8 lowest paying jobs. This doesn't only have to do with wages, but also the lack of health insurance and other benefits that other careers often offer. Low wages isn't just for food laborers, but also employees at restaurants, grocery stores, and across the food chain. At the same time, owners of such business have profits that rocket off the charts in comparison to the laborers.

The goal behind this blog is to inform consumers that there are just ways to purchase food and to support human rights when it comes to food labor. Each and every individual has the right to healthy foods, a healthy life, and healthy work conditions. At current, this is not happening amongst much of the food system, therefore it is important to be informed and have the opportunity to change the system prior to a massive breakdown.

Where to Look for more Information

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Getz, Christy, & Minkoff-Zern, Laura-Anne. "Farmworkers - The Basis and Bottom of the Food Chain." Globalization Comes Home. 18(1) 2011. www.urbanhabitat.org. Accessed November 21st, 2013.
This specific webpage focuses on farmworkers and the severity of the health issues that come with the job. It also talks about how the type of work being done leads to hunger and the irony of how they are working with food yet still cannot afford to feed their own families, and instead rely on the government. There is also a brief section on organic farming and how it is very similar to that of conventional farming when it comes to labor.
Grace Communications Foundation. Accidents, Injuries, and Health.
http://www.sustainabletable.org/273/workers#immigrant . Accessed December 4th, 2013.

The Grace Communications Foundation focuses on accidents, injuries and health for immigrant workers in the food system, specifically farm workers. There is also a brief section that talks about immigrant workers rights and the difficulties that come with being an immigrant worker especially in this line of work.
Jacobson, Ariel, & Lo, Joann. "Human Rights from Field to Fork Improving Labor Conditions for Food-sector Workers by Organizing across Boundaries." Race/Ethnicity: Mulitidisciplinary Global Contexts. 5(1) 2011. 61-82. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/rac/summary/v005/5.1.lo.html

From Field to Fork talks about the immense size of the food system and how it has to support the entire nation, or the world given the globalized world. The article looks at the history of the food system and how it has led to the disregard for human rights, in addition to analyzing the inequalities and discrimination when it comes to power in the food system.
Jayaraman, Saru. "The Hands That Feed Us: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain." Food Chain Workers Alliance. Web. Accessed November 30th, 2013. http://foodchainworkers.org/?p=1973 .

The Hands That Feed Us analyzes the five core food occupations and industries and shows how the corporation impact workers due to low wages. The study interviewed workers and they talked about how the corporations create unfair competition due to their immense amount of money and disregard for human rights. The article also analyzes the poor quality of life and benefits that go along with working in the sector regardless of race or ethnicity.
Minnesota Workforce Characteristics. Migration Policy Institute. Web. November 19th, 2013. http://www.migrationinformation.org/DataHub/state3.cfm?ID=MN#1

This website shows statistics of race/ethnicity and the type of work that they are involved in. It shows statistics on how much money and benefits individuals make by working within certain sectors.
Siple, Julie. "The Face of Hunger: Migrant workers in southern Minn." MPR News. Web. July 12, 2011. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/07/12/hunger-tour-montgomery

Minnesota Public Radio went down to southern Minnesota to investigate what it is like on farms down there. Every year thousands of migrant workers move there every summer in order to make money from the harvest. The article proves that human rights issues when it comes to farm laborers are also in our home state even though people don't necessarily see it.

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