The Fruits of our Labor
By Lisa Zucker & Paula Galowitz
As we are the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants who came to this country as unskilled workers themselves, our connections to the farmworkers are obvious. Indeed, so many of our community’s ancestors came here with nothing more than a willingness to work hard. When employment turned to exploitation, allies stood up. We must also help our neighbors who toil in the fields. This is our history as Jews and our biblical calling. As chef and food writer Ruth Reichl so eloquently writes, “Most of us are no longer ignorant of the environmental costs of the way we raise our food…[W]e are concerned with the health of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. But [these are] selfish concern[s]. We agonize over what we are putting into our bodies while remaining blind to the problems of farmworkers… If we are ever going to have a food system that is really sustainable, it cannot be done on the backs of people who are picking our food.”For some of us, there are few concerns (politics aside) that occupy our daily thoughts more than the food we eat. Should it be organic? Local? Sustainable? Gluten Free? But how many of us think about the workers who harvest our food? Specifically, what do we do with the knowledge that New York farmworkers continue to be excluded from the basic labor rights that all other hourly workers enjoy, like the right to a day of rest, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, and even the right to organize. On Labor Day, the public holiday that honors the American labor movement, it is particularly important to be concerned about the treatment of farmworkers in New York.
Please join us in BJ’s Economic Justice Hevra and let us know if you’re interested in our October 15 trip to the Worker Education Center at Riverhead to meet with Long Island farmworkers (click here for details).
Lisa Zucker and Paula Galowitz
Co-Chairs of the Economic Justice Hevra
About Paula Galowitz
Paula is a public interest lawyer who has taught at NYU School of Law for many years. Since joining BJ in 2003, she has been involved with BJ’s Panim el Panim: Community Organizing and Advocacy Initiative.
About Lisa Zucker
Lisa Zucker has been a BJ member since 1998. She is a lawyer and currently works at the ACLU. She has been involved with BJ’s Panim el Panim: Community Organizing and Advocacy Initiative since 2006.