Sunday, January 3, 2016

Why every vegan should support living wage efforts




Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is an organization based on ethics – we promote veganism because we do not want animals to have to suffer and/or die for human consumption, for entertainment, for cosmetics, etc. 

We advocate for the rights of farm workers because every worker should be treated with dignity and respect, be paid a living wage, and have safe working conditions. We also do this because, as vegans, we need to be reminded that our food is also tainted with suffering until these rights are attained.

Additionally, we work on the lack of access to healthy foods in communities of color and low-income communities because it is a grave injustice that eating healthy foods ends up being a privilege and not a right. And that doesn’t even take into consideration that everyone should also be able to eat with their ethics too! You can really see a connection to the colonial dimension of eating here.  

And, as a vegan organization, we know that if we want people to go vegan, we have to do more than just encourage them to do so. We need to help make it possible for them to actually do it.

Currently, not everyone has the ability to go vegan (regardless of how many times you hear going vegan is easy). It is not that easy, especially for those who cannot afford it and/or do not have access to healthy foods (even just basic fruits and vegetables).

No matter how many vegans do stunts to eat vegan on less to prove you don’t need a lot of money to go vegan – these do not work and they do not help. Vegans need to also understand what it is like to have their wages be inconsistent, to not have access to healthy foods nearby, to not have a kitchen or a car, to not be able to carry more than two bags of groceries on the bus, or to have to work 2-3 jobs (and I don’t mean office jobs, I mean jobs where someone is on their feet all day). Sure, some people do live on limited budgets, but many people do not have budgets at all.

In our work surveying impacted communities in San José, we found that one of the biggest barriers for people to access fresh fruits and vegetables was the cost. We also found that this is a real and pressing concern for parents providing for children who have decided to avoid animal products: we had three focus groups, and in two of them, parents actually had children who were vegan or vegetarian.

That is when we at F.E.P. decided we needed to do more to push for living wages for everyone. We feel that everyone should be supporting this, but it’s especially important for those who want others to go vegan to support these efforts.

Living wage campaigns are taking place in various sectors on both the city and county levels (we have been working to help push one in Sonoma County). The Fight for $15 campaign, for example, is a nationwide movement agitating for a minimum wage of $15 an hour for workers in places such as Wal-Mart, restaurants, and fast food chains (you can read my blog about when I worked fast food as a vegan teenager).

And when looking at service workers, many are people of color.

According to a new report by the Haas Institute (the US Farm Bill):
Communities of color frequently overrepresented in lowest-paying jobs. In 2012, 26% of Blacks and 26% of Latinos were employed in service—a notoriously low-paying industry—while only 17% of whites and 18% of Asian Americans were employed in service.

Again, for me, I want to take up this fight for workers because it is what is right; however, I call upon other vegan organizations and individuals to join us in this call if you truly want people to go vegan. It takes more than just asking people to go vegan for something like this to be possible.

How can you do this? Sign up for alerts from groups such as the Jobs With Justice, Food Chain Workers Alliance, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. Keep in mind that these are not vegan groups, so it is important to carefully read any petitions before signing to make sure you agree with them, but it is easy enough to post an upcoming event or call to action on social media.

Just lend your voices and those of your supporters to equal justice for all.

We all need to be part of a holistic movement that demands respect and equality for human and non-human animals to live free of suffering, harm, and exploitation.

Who’s with me?

3 comments:

  1. Hear, hear. Thanks for this. Standing up for workers ought to be a central aspect of any vegan ethic of justice.

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  2. Many things seem to be happening when you were giving that talk, but my main thing that I see is that as usual, the expertise and lived experiences of a WOMAN OF COLOR is trumped; a white woman whitesplains to YOU how things REALLY Are, despite you being the Executive Director of Food Empowerment Project and having a team that does research and activism that SHOWS what you are talking about. It's frustrating to be in the constant dynamic as professional expert women of color in a world (USA) dominated by the taken for granted "common sense" norm that White people are collectively more of an 'expert' than you. I am not sure how Ahimsa veganism can ever be achieved episodes like these happen. And when we point it out, we are called racist or bigots for pointing out who systemic racism and whiteness are operating even within animal rights, veganism, and the ethical consumption movement in general. Yes, highly stressful situations for us. Please keep on doing the good work, but also take care of yourself.

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