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 In “The American Way of Eating,” Barbara McMillan takes on many different roles in the food industry to gain a better understanding of these experiences. When talking about her work picking grapes, she bluntly says, “As a farmworker, I do not have the same rights that I have when I work in an office,” p27. She goes on to list her lack of rights, noting that her fellow workers will not have the opportunity to write a book about this injustice and share it on a national scale. My immediate hope after reading these lines was that the laws have changed because McMillan, an undercover reporter, exposed the unfair situations. However, this is not necessarily the case. Without a complex infrastructure that includes lobbying and massive public attention, no one will begin to care more about the laws for rights of farmworkers, and their conditions will not improve.

One of McMillan’s main arguments as to why workers have fewer rights is that they are stuck in a tough situation. If companies feel they’re being pressured to change their ways, they can legally move production to machines, leaving the workers without a way to earn their living. This unfortunate fact shows that unless the workers somehow move on to greater jobs with greater power, they will not be the ones to make a change. Someone from the outside has to do that, and this person cannot be connected to the large corporations that benefit from the workers’ low wages and unfair conditions. They will need enough money that they can publicly expose this problem without being paid to do so, and without relying on the industry itself for their income. As long as the farming industry continues to operate as it does today, no internal force will cause workers’ situations to improve. Only an outsider with a strong commitment to the cause and sufficient connections will truly be able to fix this problem and make workers have rights nationally, not just state by state.

 

Discussion Questions:

How have other industries with similar workers’ rights issues managed to improve their situations?

Why does our government not take a proactive stance on these issues?

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