Saturday, July 21, 2012

Worker Justice

When I was in college, one of my classmates was dating an undocumented immigrant, and said that he worked at local cheap eats place as a dishwasher - getting paid $1 an hour.

A whole buck for an hour of scrubbing dishes.  My mother paid me a dollar an hour to do chores when I was a little kid.

I haven't been able to eat at that restaurant again, but of course there's no reason for me to think that this is the only local place paying its workers such substandard wages.

When I was down in Phoenix for the Justice GA, I was struck by how many of the local activists made reference to our love of guacamole - and then I saw the local practice of having the waitstaff come out and make the guacamole fresh at the table so a restaurant patron could see how fresh it was.

I don't know how much waitstaff are paid in Phoenix, but the national minimum wage for tip workers is  $2.13 an hour.

From field to fork, it's not just the environment and the animals that suffer so we can have a good dinner.  But overall, worker justice and fair trade hasn't got the cultural traction that organic and sustainable food are now enjoying.  The lack of concern over worker justice from foodies is the subject of this recent article in

Yet another thing for us to worry about?  Yes, as I stand in front of the dairy section of my local store, I have to ask:

How were these cows treated?

Should I spring for organic?  Hormones and antibiotics in milk products give me the willies, and I worry about my kids growing up on all these hormones ...

Maybe I should go for soy or coconut instead?

Organic, non-gmo soy?

I've heard soy isn't actually all that sustainable .... and then it has it's own hormone mimicking issues ....

Coconut milk is high in fats .... and it's a new fad so I have no idea if coconut production is sustainable or not ....

Were the dairy workers paid fairly and treated well?

How many miles did this product travel to this store?  What is it's carbon footprint?

Are the workers in this store paid fairly?  

Does this chain of stores/ local store support some political cause I'm opposed to?  (Should I even be in this store in the first place?)

It is enough to make a lot of people throw their hands up in the air and give up.  And then you have to go through that with every single purchase decision you make.  

All that said, can we find a bit of room in our overcrowded ethical brains to worry about the workers?

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