The Legacy of Labor Day

By: Zoe Denckla

With all the parades, barbecues and back-to-school sales, it's easy to look past the purpose of this holiday weekend. So why is Labor Day Labor Day? As a response to poor working conditions including long days, little pay, and hazardous environments, on September 5th, 1882, members of the central labor union skipped work and took to the streets to demand better. By 1894, this became a national holiday recognizing workers' contributions to America’s economic strength and achievement.

In honor of Labor Day, we’re taking a close look at contemporary labor issues in the food world as well as the unions, cooperatives, and technology platforms helping to empower workers. Examine the shifting labor regulations for migrant agricultural workers and learn how food business owners can support sustainable labor practices. Farmers, delivery workers, business owners and consumers all play an essential role in the production of our food. 

Meat and Three Episode 114: Labor Organizing: The Fight for Better Conditions in Food: We bring you four stories about workers organizing and unionizing around the country. First, we’ll start in our own backyard: New York City. We dive into the world of  food delivery workers and their efforts to legislate the delivery apps that push them around the City. Next, we’ll move upstate to and look at farm workers fighting for more overtime pay before turning to the Texas Service Industry Coalition. Finally, we’ll end this episode in San Francisco with Anchor Brewing. The brewery is over 100 years old and ratified its very first union contract in 2019.  

The Big Food Question Episode 40: How Do You Start A Worker Cooperative?: Worker cooperatives are worker owned and democratically controlled businesses. They have been shown to lower pay disparities and demonstrate resilience in the face of crisis. But how do they run on a day-to-day basis? How can you start one or transform an existing business into a cooperative model? What potential do cooperatives have for strengthening our economy and our food system? 

This episode addresses these questions and more. Commissioner Jonnel Doris of New York City’s Department of Small Business Services provides essential tips and resources for any New Yorkers interested in starting a cooperative. Steph Wiley and Karna Ray, worker-owners at the Black-led food distribution cooperative Brooklyn Packers, share their experience operating under this model as well as their vision for a more equitable food system. 

The Farm Report Episode 421: A Local Food App Created For and by Farmers: Lindsey Lusher Shute began working on the concept for GrownBy during her time at the National Young Farmers Coalition, because young farmers expressed a need for better technology that could help them sell their food. Now, after testing the platform during the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic on her own farm in the Hudson Valley and several others, the app is up and running with 160 farms around the country. In this episode, Lusher Shute talks to host Lisa Held about how GrownBy works, a cooperative model that means farmers retain power and profits, and the digital future of the local food marketplace.

Tech Bites Episode 242: Delivery Series: How it Works: In 2021, a year and a half into the global Covid-19 pandemic, restaurant, food, and grocery delivery has never been more popular, nor more essential to people’s daily lives and the survival of the restaurant industry. Third-party delivery apps have dominated the space, dictating policies and payments for both home consumers and restaurants. On this episode, host Jenifer Leuzzi talks with Claire Brown, senior staff writer at The Counter, and Elaine Russel, who manages the grocery-tech focused Albertson's fund at Greycroft, about how the third-party apps really work and who is profiting. This is episode one of a three-part series that examines the current ecosystem of apps, restaurants, delivery workers, and consumers, seeking to shine a light on the real-world costs of delivery and convenience. 

Tech Bites Episode 243: Delivery Series: Los Deliveristas Unidos: Delivery workers created Los Deliveristas Unidos in 2020, demanding a living wage, essential protection from theft, violence, wage theft, and safety hazards. On this episode, host Jenifer Leuzzi talks with Glendy Tsitouras, worker’s rights organizer at the Worker’s Justice Project (WJP), and Juan Carlos Huerta, delivery driver and member of Los Deliveristas Unidos. 

Tech Bites Episode 244: Delivery Series: The Future: Companies looking to take back control of their delivery are creating their own platforms. On this episode, host Jenifer Leuzzi talks with Jeremy Wladis, owner of the multi-unit Restaurant Group in NYC, who created the delivery platform WestSideEasts with a community cohort of students, tech people, and restaurants. This is episode three, of a three-part series that examines the current ecosystem of apps, restaurants, delivery workers, and consumers, seeking to shine a light on the real-world costs of delivery and convenience.

Why Food? Episode 172: Margaret Nyamumbo: Kahawa 1893 Coffee: Join us for a conversation with Margaret Nyamumbo, founder of Kahawa 1893. Margaret is a third generation coffee farmer and grew up on a farm in Kenya before immigrating to the USA. After earning her MBA from Harvard, she went on to work on Wall Street when she rediscovered her passion for coffee. She founded Kahawa 1893 with a mission to close the gender gap in coffee. In Kenya, over 90% of labor in coffee comes from women, but they aren't fairly compensated because they don't own the land. Kahawa 1893 coffee is roasted and distributed from San Francisco and the brand recently launched in Trader Joe's as the first Black & woman-owned coffee brand to launch in the grocery chain. 

What Doesn’t Kill You Episode 333: Migrant workers and the H2A visa Program: H2A visa workers, those who pick and harvest our food,  are some of the most abused and least protected of all labor categories. David Bacon, author of a new report on the subject joins to describe their plight and what measures the Biden Administration needs to adopt to halt this abuse. 

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