Employment: U.S. Food Sector

An estimated 20 million people, or one in five private sector workers and one sixth of the nation’s entire workforce, are employed by the U.S. food system. More than 85% of these 20 million workers are “frontline workers”—workers in physically demanding, nondesk jobs—making less than $20,000 per year. As producers, retailers, and restaurants compete to lower their prices and maximize profit, the burden of these low prices falls on the wages of these low-level workers. Responsible employment policy and its implementation is an essential component of a fair and functioning food chain. Yet the plight of U.S. food workers has been largely ignored, even as consumers become more concerned with food justice issues such as factory farming and local sourcing.

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