Justice for all isn’t inclusive enough (Nancy De Jesus)

“Justice for all isn’t inclusive enough: Undocumented workers struggle for human rights and the hidden cost of living a healthy lifestyle”

As the population of individuals who abstain from using or eating animals or animal products continues to grow it simultaneously promotes lifestyle changes. Awareness continues to grow and create consciousness that serves to create social impact among social issues. Many of the discussion topics support pro-environmental viewpoints and argue for ethical practices to be implemented in these industries. Community organizers and Farm worker advocates have raised awareness about the abuse faced by workers in the Agricultural business throughout history. Campaigns and awareness has been centered on improving the working conditions and educating workers on their rights and what resources are available to them. The difference is the current support for veganism, sustainability, and organic markets which advocates have argued that human rights violations are being left out of the conversation. Investigations and studies have found that migrant women farm workers experience severe forms and amounts of violence when compared to other workers in different industries. One of the characteristics that make women very vulnerable to being exploited or sexually abused relates to their immigration status in the United States. While many are undocumented without any status fear of deportation or any police contact makes their likelihood of reporting significantly low. Others who are recruited through the H-2A program or other guest worker programs are also very vulnerable to remain silent about abuse because they are falsely told that they will lose their eligibility to participate in the program. Often times there are hidden fees, debt bondage, or other coercive actions that contribute to the lack of knowledge in denouncing the poor working conditions and treatment of workers.

The promotion of sustainable foods cannot be silent to a food system that is based on exploitation beginning with the workers who harvest the crops. Specifically, women who work in the fields that are facing alarming rates of sexual violence, sexual abuse, and harassment in the workplace. Often times the perpetrators are not held accountable because victims do not report the incidents in fear of losing their jobs. Having little financial security makes them dependable on their employer creating a vicious cycle that constraints them to poverty. The opportunity for social mobility is almost non-existing due to the low wages from working in “piece work”. This creates many issues because not being paid hourly hinders workers from taking breaks, and instead pressure them to work for long hours to increase their income.

The food justice movement encompasses various social justice issues that are not as widely recognized by followers in comparison to issues that are commonly brought up. More efforts need to be made to be inclusive of previously ignored narratives to understand the true sense of what the injustices are at all levels. While the market focuses on improving consumer’s quality of life we must ask at what cost? The exploitation of workers, think of the illnesses caused by pesticide exposure, chronic trauma, and the most vulnerable workers being women. Those who advocate and pledge a vegan lifestyle must recognize the disparities and support other efforts that coincide with environmentally sustainable practices and stand on equitable principles. When taking the initiative to an individual level in which choices made are on the bases of ethics, ethics extends to cultivating, harvesting, transporting, and the production stages.

It is inevitable not to take a critical stance to discussions that pertain to social issues in which structural and institutional forces need to be addressed to create real social change.