Food Chain Labor

The ability to meet our food needs through relatively little labor of our own is a great and often undervalued privilege. Yet the conditions under which food chain laborers across the globe toil calls into question the ethics of even the most environmentally sustainable, animal welfare-centric, and nutritious food.

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Although the Industrial and Digital Revolutions have dramatically changed the way food is produced, humans have not completely innovated their way out of working for their food. Advancements in agricultural and food-related technology have relieved most people from the obligation to perform land-based and food producing work, allowing ever more of us to move to cities and pursue non-agricultural careers, advancing innovation, expression, and progress in countless other fields, generating wealth, and enabling leisure pursuits. Modern humans who enjoy the freedoms that flow from the ready availability of sufficient food owe much of their liberty and available time to the labor of over a billion people who continue to perform essential work producing food throughout the food chain.

From farm and sea to market, human labor remains necessary for a wide range of production activities. In horticulture, manual, machine-assisted, and technology-supported human labor is employed in cultivating land and preparing other growing media, seeding and planting, weeding and pruning, and harvesting seed, feed, and raw food items. In animal agriculture (which encompasses the husbandry of livestock raised for meat, milk, fiber and hide, poultry raised for meat and eggs, farmed aquatic animals, and edible and beneficial insects), humans are involved in breeding, tending, feeding and watering, milking, housing, maintaining herd or flock health, and slaughtering. Additionally, wild fisheries use human labor on waterborne vessels for the foraging of wild fish and seafood. A much smaller but not insignificant amount of land-based food is hunted or foraged by humans.

Owing to the use of heavy machinery, sharp implements, and toxic chemicals, as well as proximity to large animals and exposure to the elements, agriculture and fishing are one of the three most dangerous job sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases. Slaughterhouse work is similarly dangerous and taxing, with workers required to spend long hours in hot and humid kill rooms or frigid meatpacking areas while performing difficult, fast-paced, repetitive manual tasks with very sharp implements.

Once produced or collected, humans are involved in the processing of raw products into safe comestibles, moving food through markets to consumers, and preparing and serving food for consumption. As we face the challenges of sustainably producing and providing access to sufficient food to meet the needs of a rapidly growing human population on a warming planet with an increasingly volatile climate and dwindling natural resource base, human labor, skill, ingenuity, and stewardship only become more critical.

The ability to meet our food needs through relatively little labor of our own is a great and often undervalued privilege. Given the importance of their labor to so many, it would be reasonable to expect that food chain workers would be honored for the work that they do and be well compensated and protected. To the contrary, the conditions under which food laborers across the globe toil — and the economic challenges that they face — call into question the ethics of even the most environmentally sustainable, animal welfare-centric, and nutritious food. Food chain workers perform hard physical labor for long hours, often in unsheltered outdoors or in sheltered but dangerous facilities. They work in perilously close proximity to dangerous machinery, toxic chemicals, or powerfully built animals. Despite these conditions and risks, most earn poverty wages, receive no medical benefits or paid sick days, enjoy little job security, and have minimal opportunity for advancement. Farm workers, who must live in close proximity to productive lands, often have no choice but to rent a small sliver of space in crowded and dilapidated houses or to sleep in makeshift shelters. They rarely have access to reliable transportation; when they do, that transportation is often operated by their employers. Few farm and food processing workers enjoy or are able to exercise rights to collective organization, action or bargaining.

Because food chain labor is often performed by people living in diaspora, cultural and language differences form barriers and lead to social isolation, which can be especially difficult to combat in the remote, rural areas where food is typically grown and processed.1 Many perform seasonal work and have few opportunities to earn wages for several months of each year; some must migrate long distances in search of temporary work on farms, traveling as the growing season unfolds.2 Food chain workers are subjected to racism, sexism, harassment, assault and unsafe working conditions at alarming rates.3,4 Worse yet, an indeterminate but not insubstantial portion of the estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, including children, are forced to work in agriculture, fisheries, and food processing.5

We have already noted that there are a range of reasons why people owe general ethical duties to the other humans with whom we share a planet and era. There are also some specific reasons why we owe duties to those who produce our food and help bring it to market, regardless of where they may work or live. The food we need to sustain our health and enjoy our lives is the result of the labor of others in a global web of interdependent connections between food producers, consumers, and countless food chain workers. These connections give rise to specific ethical duties toward the workers who contribute their labor to the enterprise and the sustenance, welfare, and livelihoods of others.

The commitments under the Food Chain Labor area of concern aspire to ensure that decent, safe work and sustainable livelihoods are available to those who labor in the food system regardless of job classification or location. Generally speaking, it is ethically important that conditions of work live up to the International Labor Organization’s conception of “decent work,” which is defined as productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Decent work involves opportunities for work that: is productive and delivers a fair income; provides security in the workplace and social protection for workers and their families; offers prospects for personal development and encourages social integration; gives people the freedom to express their concerns, to organize and to participate in decisions that affect their lives; and guarantees equal opportunities and equal treatment for all.6

Core Ethical Commitments

Legal Status, Human Rights & Protections

9. Conditions of work honor the inherent dignity and equal, inalienable rights of all people, consonant with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This commitment requires that the conditions of food-chain work honor the inherent dignity and equal, inalienable rights of all people. Conditions of work should be fully consonant with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, at a minimum, entitles workers to enjoy rights to life, liberty and security of person. Additionally, workers must not be subjected to the following forms of unacceptable treatment: physical, verbal, or emotional abuse; blackmail or extortion; and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or forms of discipline.

Opportunities for employment, advancement, and wage-earning should be equally available to all qualified workers without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, family status, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property ownership, country of birth or other status.

10. Workers are afforded legal status in the jurisdictions where they live and work adequate for the exercise of fundamental rights and access to justice. Where this is not practicable, protections that support human liberty, security, access to justice, and realization of fundamental human rights are provided, including provisions for communication about these protections in the worker’s native language.

Many jobs in the food chain are low-wage, low-profile endeavors requiring long hours of hard, repetitive, physical labor, often in the unsheltered outdoors, that can quickly degenerate the body. It is therefore not surprising that the types of labor performed by food chain workers rarely appeal to most job-seeking citizens of wealthy and upwardly mobile nations.

Human migration is often described as a “push-pull” phenomenon, shaped both by factors that compel people to leave one place (often a personal or ancestral homeland), and by factors that drive people towards a new location, including a new country. Lack of employment opportunities and inability to earn a decent living is a common push factor; the availability of jobs in a particular area is a compelling pull factor. Thus, countries with both robust agricultural and food processing economies and limited citizen interest in jobs within the sector often see large waves of authorized and unauthorized immigration. It is not uncommon for people (political leaders and citizens alike) in destination countries or regions to decry or express anxiety about immigration, without acknowledging the contributions of migrant labor, including undocumented laborers, to their nation’s economy and prosperity. When examined, the question of whether it is appropriate for a society and its economy to benefit from the labor of undocumented, unauthorized, and potentially stateless workers is deeply contested.

This commitment assumes that it is ethically preferable for all workers to be afforded legal status in the jurisdictions where they live and work. However, this commitment also assumes that undocumented workers will continue to comprise a significant component of the food chain work force in the United States (and of other wealthy nations) for the foreseeable future, given current political and economic realities. Given that there is no end to economic migration in sight, this commitment does not forbid the use of undocumented workers in the food system, provided that these workers are given protections roughly equivalent to those afforded to citizens or holders of work visas (assuming that the work visa parameters are appropriately protective). Such workers must be guaranteed freedom from abuses, encouraged to report mistreatment, and protected against retaliation. These protections must be in place even where local laws (as written) or law enforcement (in practice) do not provide such protective guarantees. It is not ethically acceptable for companies to take advantage of a weak legal regime in their region or in a foreign jurisdiction.

Migrant and seasonal workers may face working conditions on farms or in processing plants that seem deplorable to people in wealthy nations with relatively stable economies and robust job markets. However, these same conditions may be more just and humane than the circumstances that the workers face in their countries of origin. This Commitment is premised on the understanding that there are some objectively unethical forms of conduct and working conditions to which food chain labors should never be subjected.

11. Workers have the right to organize and the ability to assert their interests individually or collectively to influence the conditions under which they work without being subjected to retaliation.

Internationally recognized human freedoms to peaceful assembly and association, made manifest through organized labor, help to level the unequal relationships and power differentials between workers and employers. In the past, laborers asserted their rights, resisted exploitation, and demanded fair treatment through trade unions, collective bargaining, and strike. Today’s prevailing economic order and food system — marked by globalization, the rise of multinational corporations, concentration of wealth and power, and diminished State power to regulate powerful corporate actors (or limited assertion thereof) — has negatively impacted food chain workers’ ability to exercise their assembly and association rights. Vast swathes of the world’s labour force — including large numbers of food chain laborers — have been excluded from protective legal frameworks that guarantee fundamental rights to associate or assemble.7 When forced to speak or act alone, workers are less able to obtain fair wages, illuminate unsafe working conditions, or oppose abuses. This, in turn, may allow other unethical labor practices and morally concerning conditions, including forced and child labor, human trafficking, violence, and poverty.

The commitment requires that actors with power or influence over the conduct of workers must not prohibit or discourage workers from organizing, peaceably assembling, acting, bargaining, or speaking collectively. Likewise, they must not lobby or otherwise advocate for restrictions of such rights. To the contrary, they should encourage or facilitate the expression of “worker voice” — individual and collective efforts by workers to assert their interests and improve organizational processes and performance — even when what is voiced conflicts with employers’ or other parties’ interests.

Moreover, this commitment requires that food chain laborers be free from harassment or retaliation on the basis of their associations, efforts to organize or acts of assembly, and individual or collective assertions of voice. Prohibitions on retaliation should be clearly articulated at the organizational level, unambiguously communicated to workers in their own language, and assiduously enforced, especially in cases of whistleblowing. A strong commitment to empowering collective worker action and voice may support progressive improvement under several additional Core Ethical Commitments.

12. Forced labor, including enslaved and involuntarily trafficked individuals of all ages, is never employed, and robust systems are in place to screen for and protect against its use.

Employers, contractors, recruiters, and others must not forcibly obtain human labor against the will of the worker. Workers must be free to begin and end their association with their employers at their own volition. Likewise, they must be entitled to freedom of movement and residence within the countries in which they are legally present. It is never ethically acceptable for workers to be held in servitude or slavery. The use of bondage, violence, or threats of harm to workers or their intimates, non-payment of wages or debt bondage, false promises, and abuse of legal processes are all ethically unacceptable ways to secure or maintain labor. Additionally, workers should never be bought, sold, or bartered as chattel.

Although the wrongfulness of forced labor is morally unambiguous and beyond reasonable debate, it remains prevalent in the food system. This commitment requires companies to strictly prohibit its use, carefully and actively monitor their supply chains to confirm the absence of forced labor or work with independent third parties who do the same (making extra efforts when sourcing food from or through countries currently listed on the U.S. State Department’s watch lists for human trafficking and forced labor) and rapidly and effectively act upon known or suspected instances of forced labor.

Distinctive ethical questions about whether labor is free or forced arise in the context of work performed by prisoners,8 especially when that work constitutes hard labor, is especially risky, does not support rehabilitation, is very poorly compensated in comparison to similar work performed by free people, or is performed without the right to organize. Under the laws of the United States, slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited — except as punishment upon conviction of a crime.9 Because of this, incarcerated convicts can be forced to work as punishment for their crimes under threat of further punishment (i.e., solitary confinement or sentence extensions).10 Thus, legal conduct may fall short of what is ethically required under this commitment.

Even where prison labor is not compelled via threats of force, isolation, or enhanced punishment, it may violate commitment #16’s requirement of providing just compensation to all workers. Some argue that just compensation for an incarcerated person is lower than for a free worker in the open labor market, since the incarcerated person is repaying their debts to society. However, incarcerated workers may make as little as 20 cents an hour11 and have to pay for basic necessities (i.e., toiletries) inside the prison. Thus, negligible compensation of incarcerated workers may arguably render the work indecent and undignified. It may also have attendant harms on children and family, who miss out on the opportunity to offset some of the family income lost when their relative was incarcerated.12

Moreover, the availability of cheap prison labor in some jurisdictions — an attractive proposition for payroll-cost conscious employers — may depress employment and earnings opportunities for free workers or may create perverse incentives to maintain or increase the size of the prison population.13,14,15 In light of these dynamics, this commitment requires that those producing or sourcing food produced using prison labor do not take unfair advantage of the ability to secure the labor of incarcerated persons at artificially low wages. Thus, those contracting with correctional agencies to have work performed by prisoners should make efforts to ensure that the work is decent, that it supports rehabilitation or development of skills to support successful re-entry, that wages are not excessively garnished to offset the costs of incarceration, and that workers have the right to speak, individually and collectively, about risks or unfair treatment.

13. Child labor is not employed, and robust systems are in place to screen for and protect against its use.

Child labor is especially prevalent and problematic in the agri-food sector. According to the International Labor Organization, worldwide over 98 million girls and boys aged 5-17 work in farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock. The involvement of children in the workforce on this scale is a serious moral concern, especially in a particularly dangerous sector like agriculture.

Every person has a right to a childhood free of hard labor, profit-driven coercion, and undue risk of harm. No child, regardless of race, sex, nationality, religion, economic status, place of residence, or occupation should be exploited in any manner, including by those who would use or profit from their labor. Childhood is a time for receiving nurturance, playing, cultivating curiosity and participating in both formal and informal education. While it is never acceptable to exploit other human beings, because this period in the human life cycle is one of unparalleled cognitive, emotional and physical growth, socialization, and discovery, and because children are dependent on others for the protection and furtherance of their welfare, children deserve special consideration and protective treatment. This special need is enshrined in the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

For purposes of this commitment, “Child” is defined as every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. International law recognizes four categories of illegal child labor:

  1. Unconditional worst forms of child labor, such as slavery, commercial sexual exploitation and the use of children in illicit activities, which are categorically unethical and impermissible;
  2. Hazardous work — work that by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to be harmful to the Child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social well-being or development
  3. Labor performed under the minimum age as established by local law.
  4. Labor that prevents or interferes with a Child’s education.

Not all incidents of food chain work by children are inherently exploitative or fall under the definition of “child labor.” Indeed, age-appropriate tasks with a low risk of harm that do not interfere with a child’s opportunity to access education, attend school, and enjoy play time can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment. Indeed, involving children in agriculture, in limited and age-appropriate ways, can contribute to the intergenerational transfer of critical technical skills and traditional cultural knowledge. It can also support greater food security for children at critical developmental periods.

The commitment requires that all actors involved in producing or sourcing food should take appropriate steps to screen for and guard against child labor in their operations or supply chains. In regions or supply chains with a high likelihood of child labor,16 producers should be able to demonstrate that they have monitoring, mitigation, and elimination plans, as appropriate. Moreover, for products, ingredients, or inputs that have been linked with child labor in the past, actors should offer evidence of remediation or elimination to satisfy this commitment.

14. Workers are protected against marginalization, harassment, assault, violations of bodily integrity and traumatization, and from the increased incidence of crime and victimization that flows from such conditions.

Many food chain workers are hidden in plain sight — easy to overlook and easy to exploit. They often live and labor at the margins of society — working in remote or sparsely populated locales and at odd hours. Some types of food chain work offer minimal opportunities to interact with the general public, rendering many food chain workers invisible to those who enjoy the fruits of their labor. Additionally, many food chain workers experience extreme poverty, live in diaspora, are not fluent in the language of their new region, and must stay beneath the radar of law enforcement and immigration authorities. This constellation of isolating conditions creates extreme vulnerability to a range of exploitative conduct by actors with power over workers.

In the workplace, food chain workers may experience harms and violations of their bodily integrity as a result of (1) oppressive workplace rules, or (2) insufficient assistance in coping with the unique stresses of their duties, or (3) physical, verbal or sexual abuse by those in management positions.

    • Oppressive rules include workplace policies that treat workers like machines and prioritize productivity or profit over respect for workers’ humanity. For example, poultry processing workers have reported laboring under unreasonable restrictions with insufficient time to tend to their basic needs without risking their jobs or having their pay docked; to cope with this some laborers wear diapers to work.17 Such rules create undignified (and potentially unsanitary) working conditions. Such rules are incompatible with this commitment.
    • Some types of food chain work — in particular, the work of slaughtering livestock and butchering carcasses — can be extremely mentally and emotionally taxing. Workers who kill or dismember hundreds of animals an hour are at risk of psychological harm due to high rates of stress and occupational injury, interactions with frightened animals nearing the end of their lives or with animals whose lives have just ended, and the inherent violence of the work.18,19 Studies have shown elevated rates of violent and sexual crime in communities with a slaughterhouse as a key employer.20 While the psychologically taxing nature of slaughter work is, on one level, unavoidable, the attendant harms can be mitigated through implementation of strategies designed to help workers cope. This commitment encourages efforts to help workers cope with the unique stressors of their jobs.
    • Under pressure to meet productivity targets, some managers of already marginalized food chain workers take advantage of the relative obscurity of their work or the disempowerment of their workers. They may resort to physical and verbal threats and abuses, using fear in an effort to compel more work. Additionally, some managers abuse their power by sexually harassing and assaulting their subordinates; a majority of female farmworkers report experiencing sexual assault or harassment in the workplace.21,22 Indeed, gender-based violence and sexual coercion are so prevalent that some female migrant workers believed that quid pro quo sexual relations were required to maintain a job in the United States. Actual or threatened physical harm, sexual harassment or assault, abuse of legal process, etc., are anathema to this commitment and have no place in an ethical food system.

Working Conditions

15. Workers have safe working conditions. These conditions include regular access to sufficient food, water, and facilities for hygienic needs; open, accessible channels for communication and reporting; attention to occupational health and safety; and protection against exposure to chemicals, pathogens, and the elements.

Food chain workers — especially those who labor on farms, in proximity to livestock, and in meat processing facilities — are exposed to numerous safety, health, environmental, biological, and respiratory hazards. These include hazards related to grain bins and silos, toxic agrochemicals, microbial and fungal infections, heat and exposure to the elements, musculoskeletal injuries, psychological trauma, isolation, and noise, among others. Given the panoply of risks that food chain workers face — and the severity and lasting nature of many of the harms they experience — it is imperative that all actors with the ability to influence the environments and conditions in which food chain workers labor should take appropriate steps to mitigate the health and safety risks of the work.

Ethical disagreement can be expected about whether employers should be lauded for basic compliance with existing but often breached and under-enforced legal standards that aim to protect workers. In many cases, an employer’s ethical duty to provide safe and supportive working conditions may exceed the obligations imposed under applicable laws and regulations in significant ways. This is especially true where relevant legal standards have not resulted in sufficient risk or harm reduction. At a minimum, performance under commitment #15 requires employers to be in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations pertaining to worker health and safety, communication, whistleblowing and retaliation; they must also swiftly address any deficiencies or violations thereof. It also requires that employers routinely assess their workplaces for conditions, practices, norms, and workplace cultures that do not encourage safety, dignity, or forthright reporting and promptly address any deficiencies or risk factors.

While the obligations under commitment #15 fall most directly upon the entities that employ and manage workers, many farmers, ranchers, and fishers labor alongside their workers under conditions that are similarly rough, dangerous, or injurious to their health. To enhance realization of this commitment, actors throughout the supply chain should look for ways to support the creation of safe and dignified working conditions for workers and producers. For example, agrochemical companies should prioritize the development of safer pesticides, application methods, and label instructions and they should not attempt to influence regulatory review and approval processes by minimizing or mischaracterizing evidence of any risks to health posed by their products. Similarly, purchasers of raw or processed agricultural products should set procurement standards designed to foster safe and dignified conditions at the workplaces run by their suppliers.

Compensation & Benefits

16. Workers are ensured just compensation and benefits, regardless of nationality, race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Societies and economies, particularly wealthy societies that enjoy robust economic activity, are dependent on workers “at the bottom.” There is ethical disagreement about what levels of compensation, benefits, and other economic protections are due to workers in “bottom rung” jobs. This commitment requires that actors in the food sector with leverage over compensation for low-wage food chain workers should provide as fulsome a package of compensation as possible, with the near term goal of securing, at a minimum, a living wage. At the same time, actors with leverage over compensation for other food chain workers should be prepared to address the concerns about parity and attractiveness of mid-level work that are likely to emerge when the bottom rung of this proverbial ladder gets raised. According to this commitment, food chain work, like work in other sectors, should support a decent standard of living and offer the opportunities for upward mobility to motivated and high-performing workers.

This commitment also requires ensuring that there is no discrimination based on identity or group membership in compensation and benefits, in access to employment in jobs within the food sector, and to prospects for advancement or promotion.

Many farmers, ranchers, and fishers struggle economically alongside their workers. When margins are low, it is difficult for producers to provide just compensation and benefits to their workers without jeopardizing the viability of the entire enterprise. Thus, the ethical obligation inherent in this commitment to support fair and equal compensation and benefits for food chain workers travels down the food chain to those who buy inputs, raw agricultural commodities, and products for further processing or sale. In order for this commitment to be realized, value must be equitably shared throughout food supply and value chains.23

Standards of Living & Well-being

17. Work duties and conditions of employment, as well as the production and processing of food do not compromise the well-being of workers and their families. Employment and work practices provide opportunities for housing, education and community.

Food chain work poses risk to more than just the physical health of laborers. It also can contribute to low levels of general well-being for laborers and their families. Enhancing performance under many of the CECs in this area of concern may have a salutary effect on worker well-being, but doing so will not necessarily address all of the work-related conditions that erode well-being, such as poor quality housing, barriers to accessing education, isolation and estrangement from both local communities and communities of origin.

This commitment requires that actors with the ability to control or meaningfully influence the well-being of food chain workers and their family should:

  • Provide or facilitate access to safe, dignified, and decent housing. Facilitating access to such housing can be accomplished by paying a suitable living wage sufficient for the worker to access adequate and proximal housing.
  • Minimize the environmental and public health harms that flow from operations and may negatively affect the health and well-being of workers, their families, and other members of surrounding communities. This includes preventing exposures to toxic chemicals that harm the fetuses of pregnant workers or pose unacceptable risks to future pregnancies.
  • Facilitating, or at least not thwarting efforts for and by food chain workers to better integrate into surrounding communities, to access public services (including education) in those communities, or to communicate with people in their communities of origin.
18. Workers have access to health care that is equivalent to comparable labor in other industries and in adjacent communities, and that is commensurate with occupational hazards.

Although the right to health care is recognized as a universal human right in international conventions, not all nation-states instantiate this right in enforceable legal entitlements to health care services. Countries also differ on the extent to which they extend health care entitlements to non- citizens, and in some cases this extension depends on the legal status of the non-citizen. In the United States, there is no national constitutional right to health care. Although most American citizens have some form of health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs, 28.5 million people living in the United States have no health insurance and as a consequence have limited access to health care services.24 Many of these people are low wage workers in the informal economy or are undocumented, including many food chain workers.25

Obtaining secure and affordable access to health care services is a challenge for many food chain workers and their families. Many work for employers who do not offer workplace health insurance as an employee benefit, or for multiple employers over the course of a growing season. Some are not aware that they or family members qualify for health insurance through government programs. Others, including especially workers who are undocumented, do not qualify for such programs. Even if they have health insurance, food chain workers, particularly migrant and seasonal farmworkers, may also face physical, transportation, financial, language and cultural barriers to accessing health care services.

This commitment asserts the ethical importance of addressing many food chain workers’ lack of affordable access to health care services. Many would find this state of affairs ethically unacceptable, not only because healthcare is a human right but also because many food chain workers face exceptionally high occupational risks to health which they bear on our behalf. Those who employ food chain workers cannot by themselves be expected to correct or compensate for the background limitations of the current U.S. healthcare system. However, this commitment encourages employers to make every effort to help food chain workers in their employ and their families secure adequate health care. These efforts should include helping workers and their families obtain health insurance through government programs whenever this is a possibility. It also includes working with advocacy groups and community health providers to identify local resources that are available to assist food chain workers and their families in securing, accessing, navigating, and paying for health care services, and instituting policies and practices to help ensure that their workers know how to access these resources and have the necessary transportation and other means to do so. Where employers have actual or constructive knowledge of workplace injuries, they should also take affirmative steps to recommend and facilitate prompt access to appropriate health care and offer reasonable work accommodations.


1 See, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation and United Farm Workers (UFW), “Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States,” March 2011,

2 Seth Holmes, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013).

3 Southern Poverty Law Center, “Sexual Violence against Farmworkers: A Guidebook for Criminal Justice Professionals,” 2008,

4 Mary Bauer and Mónica Ramírez, “Injustice on Our Plates,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 8, 2010,

5 International Labour Organization, “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage” (Geneva: ILO, 2017).

6 International Labour Organization, “Toolkit for Mainstreaming Employment and Decent Work” (Geneva: ILO, 2008).

7 General Assembly of the United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, 2016,

8 Chandra Bozelko, “Think Prison Labor Is a Form of Slavery? Think Again,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2017,

9  U.S. Constitution, amend. 13, sec. 1.

10 Whitney Benns, “American Slavery, Reinvented,” The Atlantic, September 21, 2015,

11 For average U.S. prison wages, state by state, see, Prison Policy Initiative, “State and federal prison wage policies and sourcing information,” 2017, Prison wages vary by state and jurisdiction. The average maximum daily wage for prisoners working non-industry jobs is $3.45, a rate that’s been falling since 2001. In Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, prisoners are typically paid nothing at all for regular prison jobs. Such low wages are legal in the U.S. because of a clause of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, but explicitly allowed those convicted of a crime to be forced to work for free.

12 Saneta deVuono-powell et al., Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families (Oakland, CA: Ella Baker Center, Forward Together, Research Action Design, 2015).

13 Sarah Holder, “The Not-So-Invisible Labor Prisoners Do in Cities,” CityLab, August 28, 2018,

14 Jonah Engel Bromwich, “Louisiana Sheriff’s Remarks Evoke Slavery, Critics Say,” The New York Times, October 12, 2017,

15 Justin Miller, “Both Red and Blue States Rely on Prison Labor,” The American Prospect, accessed July 1, 2019,

16 See, U.S Department of Labor, “Sweat & Toil: Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Around the World,” 2016,

17 Oxfam America, “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry,” 2016,

18 Amy J. Fitzgerald, Linda Kalof, and Thomas Dietz, “Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From ‘The Jungle’ Into the Surrounding Community,” Organization & Environment 22, no. 2 (June 2009): 158-84.

19 Jennifer Dillard, “A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform” Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 15, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 391-408.

20 Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz, “Slaughterhouses.”

21 José R. Padilla and David Bacon, “Opinion,” The New York Times, January 19, 2016,

22 Grace Meng, “Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment,” 2012,

23 U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service, “Food Value Chains,” accessed July 2, 2019,

24 Edward R. Berchick, Emily Hood, and Jessica C. Barnett, Current Population Reports, P60-264, Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2017 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2018).

25 Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), “The Hands That Feed Us: Challenges and opportunities for workers along the food chain,” June 6, 2012,