Serving Food Justice: A Union Campaign for Fresh Food, Health, and Sustainability

Kojola, Erik
January 2013
Journal of Workplace Rights;2012/2013, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p175
Academic Journal
The local and sustainable food movement has grown in the past 30 years, and universities, schools, and other public institutions are incorporating local and fresh foods into their cafeterias and dining services. Yet discussions of organic food often leave out issues of race and class, and the people who grow, transport, cook, and serve the food are often invisible. Work in food service is done by a largely female and person of color labor force and dominated by low wages, scanty benefits, precarious work, subcontracting, and a lack of access to health care and nutritious foods-conditions endemic to the broader service sector. The UNITE HERE Real Food Real Jobs campaign is an attempt to bring together issues of sustainability, nutrition, and food access with worker justice and transform the food system from the shop floor. Drawing on participant observation and discourse analysis of UNITE HERE campaign materials, I use the campaign at American University of Washington, DC (AU) as a case study to explore the food issues facing workers and how sustainability measures can be incorporated into collective bargaining to improve working conditions, increase job security, and engage workers in promoting safe and local foods. The campaign provides opportunities to build alliances with students, food activists, and health advocates. I contextualize the campaign within the broader literature on union revitalization and coalition building as well as food justice.


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