Since the first enslaved people grew and processed sugar on Madeira, Western food has relied on brutal labor practices. It still does. From industrial agriculture's perspective, labor is a necessary evil -- a nuisance.Small and biodiverse farms are still labor-intensive. But large farms minimize labor in every way possible, relying instead on chemicals, seeds, and machines.Yet food always comes back to labor. Without workers, none of us would eat. And just about every hand that helps bring food to our tables belongs to a person who may well be worried about putting food on their own. Eight of the ten worst-paying jobs in the United States involve food. Of the twenty million food system jobs that constitute the largest private labor force in our economy, almost all earn wages that hover around the poverty line. At least a third of farmwokers earn less than the official poverty wage, which is twenty thousand dollars per year per family. That's just about enough to pay for a minimally nutritious diet for a family of four, leaving approximately zero for every other expense other than an unrealistically low rent.Many of these jobs are repetitive, demeaning, and dangerous. Workers are denied basic rights like regular bathroom breaks; a reliable schedule; freedom from abuse, harassment, and wage theft; and the right to organize and bargain collectively.That's how the system was designed to work.
And from much later in the book:
Addressing mistreated workers in our food system will require a cascade of changes to the status quo, which makes it a good place to start. And awareness of food-chain labor has accelerated in recent years. It's no coincidence that the "Fight for $15" -- the movement to institute a minimum hourly wage of fifteen dollars in place of the current federal minimum of $7.25 -- began at KFC, McDonald's, and Burger King.