Beyond the pledge: foodies and food workers get down to business

Two weeks ago, we publicly launched the Real Food Real Jobs pledge, announcing “Food workers and the food movement are uniting,” and asking for allies across the food chain to join them. The response we received was impressive and inspiring. Uniting in solidarity with food workers and their vision of food justice, hundreds of food movement leaders added their names to the list: from small farmers at Fellenz Family Farm (NY) to farm incubator experts at Atlanta Metro Food and Farm Network, from hunger relief advocates at Interfaith Food Shuttle (NC) to food justice leaders at Food First. Movers and shakers across the country stood up to declare that food workers’ equal involvement is critical to the food movement’s success.

The food movement’s support of food workers extends well beyond this online display of support. Off the web and in their communities, real food advocates and food workers are now building lasting partnerships and taking action together. One exciting moment of upcoming collaboration is Food Day — UNITE HERE workers and local food justice partners are co-organizing several great events on and around October 24th in Washington, DC, Boston, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon.


Local 23 members on a recent farm visit in Maryland

This fall, food workers on five DC universities – American, Howard, Georgetown Law, Trinity, and Gallaudet – will enter contract renegotiations demanding real jobs cooking real food. To celebrate this vision and the community that will make it possible, food workers, students, community allies, and other university faculty and staff will gather to share food and talk about their hopes for what a just, sustainable, and nourishing food system can look like on DC campuses and throughout the city. [Event details: October 24th, 5-7pm, American University, Founder’s Room, SIS Building]


Fresh off their successful campaign to win the union last spring, workers and students at Northeastern University will bring together their coworkers and classmates from across the city’s many universities, along with area farmers, food justice organizations, and other community allies, to talk about building a uniting movement for fair, healthy food and good, sustainable jobs in Boston. Organized by Northeastern’s Slow Food chapter and Progressive Student Alliance in partnership with UNITE HERE, the event will feature roundtable discussions, speakers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student / Farmworker Alliance, and food sourced from local farms. [Event Details: October 24th, 7-9pm, Northeastern University]


Pomona workers and allies at a recent rally.

At Pomona College’s Food Day event last year, university food service workers talked to students, faculty, and community members about how Pomona’s new sustainable food program was affecting their jobs. Pomona immediately pledged to hire 19 workers to help with the additional work required to prepare fresh food from scratch. Two months later, the college fired 16 dining hall workers. At a second annual Food Day event on October 25th, Pomona’s food service workers will share their stories with the university community, talking about why they value cooking good, fresh food for students and how the firings have affected their jobs.

Local 11 members will also participate in the Food Chain Workers Alliance’s event – The Hands That Feed Us: Turning the Tables on the Corporate Food System – which includes a panel discussion featuring Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles & a Capital Grille Restaurant worker, a Walmart worker & a meatpacking worker from Warehouse Workers United and UFCW Local 770, and a food service worker from UNITE HERE.


Food workers and union staff from Local 9 are speaking on two different food justice panels highlighting voices from across the food chain and the fight to fix it. Both events will include facilitated dialogue between speakers and attendees aimed at exploring intersecting issues of racial, economic, and gender justice throughout the food system.

The food movement leaders involved in these events have moved beyond pledging their support for workers online to begin concretely collaborating with food workers. By making space for constructive dialogue about what working together for real food and real jobs really looks like in local communities, these Food Day events represent an important opportunity to begin charting the future course of the movement.

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