Tag Archives: Workers

Labor Day

For most people Labor Day just means the official end of summer and a nice long weekend to take the boat out on the lake one last time. Ironically, the people we should most be celebrating and remembering today, the men and women who do the back breaking work that keeps this countries capitalist wheels greased probably do not get the day off. Especially in September when harvest is in full swing for many crops, my guess is that migrant workers that harvest our food are in the fields on Labor Day… laboring.

So what is there to celebrate this Labor Day, particularly when unemployment is at 9.7%? Well, may I suggest that we really celebrate workers and work, not by taking a vacation, but by reflecting on the men and women whose sweat in the soil feeds us every day. Perhaps this remembrance will cause us to reflect on what work is and what work is for, maybe to develop a theology of work even.

I’ve pointed out recently that I need to read, hear and express thoughts in ways that are not so rational and propositional. I’ve been trying to read more poetries and stories. So, to celebrate Labor Day here is an appropriate poem I found at the Poetry Foundation’s website.

To the Negro Farmers of the United States by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

God washes clean the souls and hearts of you,
His favored ones, whose backs bend o’er the soil,
Which grudging gives to them requite for toil
In sober graces and in vision true.
God places in your hands the pow’r to do
A service sweet. Your gift supreme to foil
The bare-fanged wolves of hunger in the moil
Of Life’s activities. Yet all too few
Your glorious band, clean sprung from Nature’s heart;
The hope of hungry thousands, in whose breast
Dwells fear that you should fail. God placed no dart
Of war within your hands, but pow’r to start
Tears, praise, love, joy, enwoven in a crest
To crown you glorious, brave ones of the soil.

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Slow Food Nation ’08

Slow Food USA hosted the first ever Slow Food Nation conference last weekend. You can find coverage at the Ethicurean and Slow Food’s Blog (among others). I finally got around to reading Wendell Berry (forthcoming post on Jayber Crow) and was excited to hear that he came out of seclusion to speak at the conference. Here’s some excerpts reported by Ethicurean:

“I’m not enthusiastic about any presidential candidate…on principle, because there’s too little we can expect from them. If we get a large enough voice, they’ll do the right thing because they have to,” said the poet-philosopher-farmer who “started this whole [movement] thing,” as Schlosser teased him on stage. We should seek out things that rely on the cooperative principle instead, like farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. “If you trade with your local hardware store rather than going to Wal-Mart, you’ll be saying, ‘I want you to exist. You and I are neighbors, and I accept responsibility for that connection.’”

I appreciate hearing about the struggles of people of faith and heroes that I look up to. Maybe it’s my dark side that wants to bring people down to my level, but I thought this was nice.

Well, it turns out he’s had his dark moments too. “I gave up on this movement about 1990,” he said. He figured he, his brother, and a few other mavericks like Gene Logsdon would just keep on doing that they did, isolated voices in the wilderness as America shopped itself into a stupor. “But then about about 1994, 1995 I began to look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Wendell, there are people out there doing what you want them to do! You better go and help them.’” And by “people” he meant regular folks, people “who are farming well, or purchasing intelligently and cooperatively.” While the people on stage with him had acted as catalysts, it’s been virtually a leaderless movement, he pointed out approvingly.

And the hook for the faithful…

Berry refers often to his Christian faith when he writes, but usually in pragmatic rather than dogmatic terms. He ended with his “favorite joke from the Sermon on the Mount — I always love the Gospels for their humor,” the idea that “to love thy neighbor as thyself” is an act of selflessness. Rather, he said, a person becomes a “neighbor” not just because they live next to you, but because they can help you and you them.

The money quote I from what I read was from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation.

Responding to Slow Food Nation’s slogan, “Come to the Table,” he pointed out that the people who picked and packed and processed all that lovely lovely food had not been invited, and that most conscious eaters in the audience were probably more concerned with animal rights than human. “Workers need to have a place at the table,” he said. “I don’t care if the tomato is heirloom, if it’s a product of slavery.”

Zing!

Farm for America

I saw this on one of the food blogs I frequent, but can’t for the life of me find it again. Proper linkage is good netiquette. So, please dear reader let me know if you find where this idea came from. You’ve heard of Teach for America. You sign up to teach at low income schools for so many years and they pay off your student loans. Well, introducing…

Farm for America

What a great idea! People volunteer to help produce wholesome organic produce and livestock and in turn get student loans paid off. It would improve our food system and connect many young people back to the land where their food comes from.

Now if only I could remember where I heard it first…

Who Feeds Us?

Who Feeds Us? is a new series from Eat. Drink. Better. which according to the site attempts “to investigate the lives of our farm workers. Who picks our crops and packages our meals and how are they treated in our name? What do we implicitly sanction as we swipe our debit cards through the checkout line?” The first installment considers women in the field including Olivia Tamayo, “who made history last week when she became the first female migrant worker to successfully bring a sexual harrassment suit against her employer to a federal jury.”