By Katrin Schulz
On February 28, food service workers, community food activists, anti-hunger activists, and students joined in solidarity at the African American Civil War Memorial to demand real food and real jobs. The “Real Food, Real Jobs” march and rally, organized by UNITEDHERE! Local 23, was held to raise awareness of two interconnected issues facing the DC community: the need for sustainable food jobs paying living wages and the need for access to fresh food in DC cafeterias. UNITEDHERE! Local 23 is driving a movement to unite food service workers, anti-hunger activists, and sustainability activists while empowering its members to change their own lives. Its members include approximately 3,500 food service workers in universities, government offices, and event venues in Washington, DC.
The march and rally also highlighted the importance of worker participation in campus sustainability efforts, the responsibility of consumers to participate in food industry reforms, as well as the power of solidarity in obtaining “real food” and “real jobs.” In 2013, dining service workers at American University and their employer, Bon Appetit, signed and ratified an agreement that increases wages, improves health care benefits, and considerably improves working conditions and training. This landmark contract even includes paid sick days. Many of the participants of the “Real Food, Real Jobs” march and rally, which included both university students and the food service workers that feed them, called on food service employers to follow this model contract. The march ended over a shared meal at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage where participants continued to share stories.