Stepping Through the Mirror

The Hands That Feed Us: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain sampled 20 million food industry workers from the five major areas of the food industry—production (farmworkers), processing (slaughterhouse workers), distribution (warehouse workers), retail (grocery store workers) and service (restaurant workers). It found that only 13.5 percent of all workers receive a living wage; 86 percent of workers reported receiving poverty-level wages… The study also found food-sector workers are, ironically, twice as likely to receive food stamps, confront a food shortage in their daily lives, and experience dependence on other government-provided services like Medicaid and energy assistance. Along with examining food-sector workers’ dependence on government assistance and wages, the report examined working conditions and found that food-sector workers face high levels of wage theft, little opportunity for mobility, deficient access to benefits like health insurance, and a high chance of injury on the job. Eighty-one percent of workers in the food sector never received a promotion in their job, and 79 percent did not have sick days, according to the report. Fifty-eight percent were not covered by any type of health insurance, despite the fact that 57 percent of the surveyed workers reported having suffered an injury on their job site. The report also found that 36 percent of surveyed workers experienced wage theft in the week prior to the survey.
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