In 2012, the Food Chain Workers Alliance published a report titled “The Hands That Feed Us” based on nearly 700 surveys and interviews with workers and employers in food production, processing, distribution, retail and service. The food chain sector, according to the report, collectively sells “over $1.8 trillion dollars in goods and services annually, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.” Below we have included a few of the summary points from the report, the entirety of which can be read here.
“Lack of Benefits: Seventy-nine percent of food system workers do not have a single paid sick day, or do not know if they have paid sick days, and 58 percent lack health coverage. Consequently, 53 percent have admitted to working while sick.
“Reliance on Public Support:Food system workers use food stamps at one-and-a-half times the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce. Food industry employees are also more likely receive Medicaid than other industries. Nearly 28% of food system employees are on Medicaid, compared to 19.36% of all industries. Due to a lack of employer-provided health benefits, more than one third of all workers surveyed (34.8%) report using the emergency room for primary health care. In addition, 80 percent of these workers are unable to pay for such care.
“Poor Quality of Life: A full 10 percent reported working more than 10 hours per day, and the vast majority of those reported working 60 or more hours per week. Almost half of the workers also reported working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
“Lack of Upward Mobility: Despite taking on more duties, 81 percent never received a promotion.
“Improper Safety Training: More than half of all workers surveyed (52 percent) reported that they did not receive health and safety training from their employers. Almost one-third of all food system workers (32.7%) reported that their employers did not always provide necessary equipment to do their jobs. A majority of workers (57.2%) reported suffering an injury or illness on the job.
“Gender and Race Discrimination: While about one quarter of Black and Latino workers and almost 40 percent of Asian workers reported earning less than the minimum wage, only 13.5 percent of white workers surveyed reported earning less than the minimum wage. Not surprisingly given these differences, more than one third of workers surveyed reported feeling that they had been discriminated against by their employer. Women food system workers take home slightly less than men in the food system; women earn median weekly wages of $400, while men reported a median weekly take-home of $421.”