Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation and United Farm Workers Release Groundbreaking Report on U.S. Farm Labor
(Palo Alto, California) – More and more Americans are asking questions about where their food comes from, but few are going so far as to think about who picked it. Farmworkers remain in the shadows. A groundbreaking new report released today, Cesar Chavez Day, in honor of the labor leader who fought tirelessly for farmworker rights, shines a light into these dark corners of our nation’s food system.
The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States is the product of a unique for-profit/NGO joint venture of the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation and United Farm Workers (UFW), with support from Oxfam America. By compiling and analyzing data from multiple federal, state, and private sources, it renders the most comprehensive picture yet of the reality faced by America’s least-valued yet critically important workforce.
Key issues faced by the nation’s 1.4 million crop farmworkers:
- Farmworkers are exempt from most federal wage and hour standards, and even existing regulations are rarely enforced, leading to rampant wage theft and other abuses.
- Children as young as 12 are legally allowed to engage in farm work, although it is one of the most dangerous employment sectors.
- Widespread use of subcontractors leads to lack of transparency and difficulty enforcing existing laws.
- Health and safety standards are inadequate, and even those that exist are rarely enforced.
- Most farmworkers are ineligible for unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance that is granted to employees in other sectors.
- Farmworkers are explicitly excluded from laws that protect collective bargaining and free association.
In summary, the U.S. food supply depends on the labor of a socially and economically marginalized population working in often appalling, sometimes abusive conditions.
The executive summary (pdf, 430kb) and full report (pdf, 6.3mb), along with high-resolution photos of farmworkers, can be downloaded here.