Farmworker Justice: In Solidarity & Deep Appreciation

Male field worker with straw hat.

Photo: F Armstrong Photography/

Farmworker Justice: In Solidarity & Deep Appreciation

Photo: F Armstrong Photography/

Social Justice

When we sit down to eat a meal, seldom do we take into account the people who made that meal possible. Behind a majority of foods we eat are over one million people toiling in fields, factory farms, slaughterhouses, and processing plants.

Learn more about our unjust food system.

At Farm Sanctuary, we’ve worked for 35 years to bring to light the horrific treatment of farm animals and to end their exploitation.

We also acknowledge the interrelated harms caused by today’s exploitative food system on farmworkers and food chain workers across the United States. In honor of World Food Day, let’s take a moment to better understand farmworkers’ experiences.

  • Workers are deeply underpaid. In no state does the average farmworker make a living wage.
  • Their work is dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control ranks agriculture “among the most hazardous industries.”
  • Workers face daily indignities. According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report, female farm workers face extremely high rates of sexual abuse.

Despite the pivotal role these workers play in the U.S. food system, many of these men, women and even children work in unsafe conditions every day in exchange for a salary below the national poverty level.

Food Empowerment Project

Farmworker oppression has also been made invisible. Farmworkers are excluded from equal protection under federal law. Their rights were not included in the National Labor Relations Act, and many state workers’ compensation and occupational safety protections do not include farmworkers. Less than half of farmworkers have health insurance, making an already dangerous job even riskier. Many in agriculture and across the food chain work in the shadows of our immigration system, making them even more vulnerable to abuse.

Yet workers, unlike animals, are essential to a nourishing food system. People can be nourished without eating animals. Without the work of people on farms and across the food chain, there is no food system.

This World Food Day, take a moment to learn about a few of the organizations standing up for farmworkers and food chain workers:

Migrant farm workers harvest and box lettuce in San Joaquin Valley, CA

Photo: Joseph Sohm/

  • The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ national Campaign for Fair Food supports a penny-per-pound increase in wages for their workers. According to the Coalition, the four largest fast food companies and three largest foodservice providers have signed Fair Food agreements, as well as Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and Trader Joe’s. Visit their website to learn more about farmworker justice and how you can support their work.
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers. In Worthington, Minnesota, a local chapter of the UFCW representing meatpacking workers sued to stop the USDA from increasing animal slaughter line speeds. This lawsuit, which was successful, is one example of how issues of worker and animal justice are interrelated.
  • The United Farm Workers of America (UFW) was the first enduring farm workers union in the U.S.––and it’s the largest one. They mainly organize in California but also across major agricultural sectors. Recent UFW union contract victories protect thousands of farm workers and include agreements with some of the largest berry, winery, tomato, mushroom, and other food companies in California and the nation. Learn more.

Every day, we are working toward a more just and compassionate food system, free of all cruelty and exploitation, whether of people, animals, or the planet. Together, we can build a system that supports the flourishing of all at the expense of none.

Connie sheep at Farm Sanctuary

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