When we consume something, it is difficult to put a face to the person who has made this experience possible for us, who has crafted the clothes we wear or farmed the food we eat. It is important to be aware of these people and realize how the legacies of food labor affect our plates.
The United Farm Workers, founded by three farming-rights advocates – Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Philip Vera Cruz – represents the people who feed America, many of whom are not American citizens (UFW). The more than 50-year-old union has come to represent the intense physical labor that farm workers endure to grow the food on America’s plate. However, the union’s membership is relatively small considering the hundreds of thousands of farm workers in the United States.
Farm workers continue working in extreme heat, and spend much of their day on their knees (UFW). The issues that farmworkers face are interesting to consider because often farmworkers do not hold United States citizenship. The relationship between these workers and the US government shows how much the government values those who do critical work for the country.
The union itself, which uses social media to garner support for farmworkers, emphasizes the importance of promoting a positive image of these workers to the world. In doing so, they contradict the rhetoric and policy put out by the US government which infringes on the rights of undocumented citizens.
Pictures released by the United Farm Workers tend to focus on specific farmers and the hard work that they do to harvest fruit and vegetables. By showcasing specific farmers and including photos of them, the organization is able to emphasize that there are people behind all of the food that we consume. The union's small membership points to the decentralization of farmers in the United States. With such a large group of workers, it is difficult to consolidate their concerns and experiences. The union attempts to do so in order to connect people to their food and create pathways of information among Americans.
Outside of raising support for farmers, the union also lobbies politicians to pass pro-farmer policies. A lot of this policy work is difficult because even once it’s passed, employers do not abide by it (Pawel). The organization serves as an important example of gratefulness and lack thereof among the US populace. Right now, they are working on passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (Sherman). The act, if passed, could help to give visas to farm workers. The issue of citizenship in the case of farmworkers is important to consider because farmworkers do such important work. Without protecting their livelihoods, the American people would be left to starve.