Food Workers & Food Justice Conference June 5-6!

Join us at the Food Workers & Food Justice Conference on June 5-6, 2012, in New York City! The Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA). UFCW Local 1500, an FCWA member, and the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) are co-organizing the conference, with co-sponsorship by the Doctor of Public Health (DPH) Program at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, the Graduate Center, The City University of New York.

Close to 20 million people throughout the U.S. work in the food system – on farms and in food processing and meatpacking plants, warehouses, grocery stores, restaurants and food service establishments. The food system workforce is equal to one-sixth of the nation’s workforce, and the industries of food production, processing, distribution, retail and service collectively sell over $1.8 trillion dollars in goods and services annually, accounting for over 13 percent of United States Gross Domestic Product. What happens to food workers has an enormous impact on the economy and on consumers, food safety, and public health.

The conference will kick off with an action at 6pm on June 5 to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers‘ Campaign for Fair Food and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United‘s Dignity at Darden Campaign. Meet at the Capital Grille restaurant at 155 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017.

June 6 will begin with the release of the FCWA report THE HANDS THAT FEED US: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain – the first-ever comprehensive report on the state of food workers in the U.S. – and workers will speak about how the report reflects their own experiences working in the food system. We will then have breakout sessions to focus on the policy recommendations and recommendations on how consumers and employers can work together with workers in the report. Right after lunch, we will have a panel focused on the policy initiatives of three New York City-based FCWA member groups: the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York’s proposed policy to tie liquor

licenses to employment standards and the sale of healthy, nutritious food; UFCW Local 1500 and ALIGN’s efforts to require community involvement and good jobs to funding support for new grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods; and Brandworkers International’s effort to include labor standards for any food manufacturing businesses that receive loans and other financial incentives in the City’s Economic Development Corporation. After this panel, we will end the day with a session of workshops to provide more hands-on tools and discussions for food workers and food justice activists.

The conference is being held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 365 Fifth Ave., Concourse Level, New York, NY 10016. You can register now at The registration fee is only $20 per person and includes a light breakfast and lunch.

Here’s the agenda overview for the conference:

8am-9am – registration, light breakfast at Concourse Level Lobby & Foyer

9am – Welcome by Joann Lo, Food Chain Workers Alliance, in Proshansky Auditorium

9:30am – Release of the report THE HANDS THAT FEED US: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain, with a panel including Uylonda Dickerson, warehouse worker; Kolu Zigbi, Program Director, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation; Nicholas Freudenberg, Professor of Urban Public Health, Hunter College, City University of New York; Barbara Sebley, La Palapa restaurant; Hnin W. Hnin, Slow Food USA - in Proshansky Auditorium

11am – Break

11:15am-12:45pm – 1st workshop/discussion session

12:45-1:30pm – Lunch at Concourse Level Lobby & Foyer

1:30-1:45 – Brief report-backs from morning workshops in Proshansky Auditorium

1:45-2:45pm – Panel: Food, Jobs and Justice in New York City’s Low-Income Communities, featuring the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, Brandworkers International, ALIGN, and UFCW Local 1500 in Proshansky Auditorium

2:45pm – Break

3:00-4:30pm – 2nd workshop session

4:30-5pm – Closing by Maritza Silva-Farrell, Alliance for a Greater New York - in Proshansky Auditorium

5:30pm – Leave for Action to Say NO to Wal-Mart!


9:30-11am Panel: Presentation of the Food Chain Workers Alliance report THE HANDS THAT FEED US: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain

Moderator – Joann Lo, Food Chain Workers Alliance

  • Kolu Zigbi, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • Uylonda Dickerson, former warehouse worker and organizer with Warehouse Workers for Justice
  • Professor Nicholas Freudenberg, Hunter College
  • Rosa Gomez, meatpacking worker and UFCW Local 770 member
  • Barbara Sebley, La Palapa restaurant
  • Hnin W. Hnin, Slow Food USA

11:15am-12:45pm Workshop/Discussion Sessions focused on 5 of the Policy Recommendations in the Report – The structure for each session is to have an open, interactive dialogue about 1) why the policy recommendation is important for food workers, employers, and consumers, 2) what has been or is currently being done in regards to this recommendation; 3) what are other ideas for specific policies or programs that could implement the recommendation; and 4) what actions, if any, can participants take to win passage and implementation of these policies. Each session has a facilitator who understands the issue well to lead the discussion, as well as representatives from organizations working actively on the recommendation who will be ready to briefly contribute their experience and perspective in order to inform the overall discussion. Each session will have an English-Spanish interpreter.

1. Reduce occupational segregation by developing greater pathways for career mobility in the food system

Facilitator: Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United; Contributors: Kyle Schafer, UNITE HERE; Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition; Yolanda Gomez and Elvira Carvajal, Farmworker Association of Florida

2. Improve food safety and the public’s health by guaranteeing food system workers health benefits such as paid sick days and access to health care

Facilitator: Jose Oliva, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United; contributor: Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York

3. Address the serious health and safety risks imposed upon workers in the food system and increase penalties for employers who engage in exploitation, including wage theft

Facilitator: Charlotte Williams, Center for New Community; Contributors: Ana and Jose Aguayo, Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center; Nick Allen, Warehouse Workers United

4. Ensure that governmental and institutional procurement policies and subsidies/loan programs include labor standards and worker protections

Facilitator: Liana Foxvog, International Labor Rights Forum; contributors: UFCW Locals 770 & 1500, Brandworkers International

5. Increase the minimum wage, including the minimum wage for tipped workers

Facilitator: Adam Obernauer, UFCW Local 1500; Contributors: Uylonda Dickerson and Leah Fried, Warehouse Workers for Justice; Restaurant Opportunities Centers United; National Employment Law Project

1:45-2:45pm Panel: Food, Jobs and Justice in New York City’s Low-Income Communities


Moderator: Diana Robinson, Food Chain Workers Alliance


  • Rahul Saksena, Policy Organizer, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York – Rahul will talk about ROC-NY’s Liquor License Initiative, which proposes to tie liquor licenses to employment standards and the sale of healthy, nutritious food, as well as ROC’s Dignity at Darden Campaign.
  • Matt Ryan, Executive Director, Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), and Patrick Purcell, Jr., Assistant to the President, United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 1500 – Matt and Pat will explain the REFRESH Program, which would require community involvement and good jobs for new grocery stores to receive public funding assistance to open in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Joseph Sanchez, Campaign Organizer, Brandworkers International – Joseph will discuss the Brandworkers’ policy initiative that seeks to foster a food manufacturing sector that provides good jobs and local foods by ensuring that companies who receive public monies comply with basic worker protection standards.

3:00-4:30pm Concurrent Workshops:

1)    Good Food Good Jobs Coalitions

Facilitator and Presenter: Josh Kellerman, Alliance for a Greater New York; Presenters: Dennis Olson, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union; Saru Jayaraman, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Projects to both increase access to healthier food and improve jobs for workers in the food system have been increasing in number. Many are called Good Food Good Jobs coalitions. Come hear about three examples of such collaborations: the UFCW, in partnership with the Mondragon Cooperative of Spain and a number of other organizations, is developing the Greater Cincinnati Food Hub, using a hybrid union-workers cooperative model to create good, green jobs and to improve the local economy; the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan helped to launch a Good Food Good Jobs Coalition to leverage liquor licenses to require retail outlets to provide healthy, fresh food and comply with employment law; and the Alliance for a Greater New York coordinates the Good Food Good Jobs coalition in New York City that is developing community-led policy solutions to address both poverty and food access. Learn how to get involved with these coalitions or start your own in your community.

2)    Making Change at Walmart Campaign

Presenters: Stephanie Yazgi, Walmart-Free NYC Coalition, and Maritza Silva-Farrell, Alliance for a Greater New York

Walmart, the nation’s largest food retailer commanding one-third of the grocery market, is now working to expand into urban markets at all costs. This workshop will analyze Walmart’s potential negative impact on our communities, our food system and our economy. The workshop will discuss the campaign to keep Walmart out of NYC while providing attendees with Direct Action training and an opportunity to participate in an action right after the training.

3)    Whistleblowers and Food Integrity: Protecting the food chain by protecting the right to tell

Facilitator and Presenter: Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign; Co-Presenters: Matteo Colombi, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Seth Payer, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Food chain whistleblowers are often the first and best line of defense when it comes to protecting public health. Unfortunately, they are all too often ignored, discredited, or silenced by the threat of retaliation or termination. This workshop reviews the challenges and obstacles associated with blowing the whistle, the relevant laws and provisions that protect whistleblowers, and the interplay between whistleblowing and labor.

4)    Participatory Action Research

Presenters: Saba Waheed & Christine Schweidler, DataCenter

This workshop will illustrate ways that community-led, participatory research has strengthened and supported organizing and advocacy work and how it can be used strategically based on the community’s campaign, needs and audiences/targets. In addition, participants will develop an understanding of Research Justice, naming and challenging the structural inequities in research and reclaiming research for our own communities’ needs. Using interactive tools, visuals, case studies (including the Food Chain Workers Alliance national report!), and exercises, the workshop will explore the various research tools available and how to strategically choose a methodology based on goals, audience and expected outcomes. This workshop is designed for those interested in strengthening their strategic capability to move their agenda forward, relying on the expertise of their community, but do not have research project experience, as well as those who have interest in research projects but face prohibitive factors, e.g., intimidated by the thought of it, feeling inadequately equipped or trained, or desire alternatives to conventional outsider-led research to advance the community agenda.

5)    The Food & Farm Bill

Facilitators and Presenters: Yolanda Gomez & Elvira Carvajal, Farmworkers Association of Florida; Angela Andrar & Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition; Eric Weltman, Food & Water Watch

The Food and Farm Bill, the major agricultural and food policy legislation of the United States, is up for renewal in 2012. Come learn about what the Farm Bill actually is and why this bill impacts all of us. This workshop will be led in Spanish (with simultaneous translation into English) by farmworkers and organizers from the Farmworker Association.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *