Agribusiness Is Using the COVID-19 Crisis to Slash Food-Worker Wages
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of our society’s frailties — and here’s a big one: In the 21st century, we still operate our farms and food systems as if they were a 19th-century plantation
Despite the technology and logistics we apply to producing and distributing food, it still turns on exploiting vulnerable people for their labor. Everywhere there are headlines about food-chain workers — the people paid a pittance to pick our vegetables, butcher our meat, stock and ring up our groceries, and perform other essential jobs for all of us — having trouble feeding their own families and even staying healthy themselves
Now, the nation’s food supply chain is disrupted because workers are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infections because their work environments aren’t safeguarded
Cavalier assurances from the food industry at the start of the pandemic — about food supply disruptions being a temporary matter of adjusting supply and demand through the grocery channel — took some things for granted
While some official guidelines to assure the safety of these “essential workers” do exist, they are seldom enforced, even under ordinary circumstances. How can it be that in one of the world’s most advanced economies (at least that’s what we all thought before the pandemic), “essential workers” can’t earn enough to feed themselves and are compelled to work despite legitimate fear for their lives?