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Labor Day is a few days gone now–please forgive the slowness of this post.

In honor of Labor Day, we’d like to call your attention to a panel that was held at Changemakers Day this past Friday. Changemakers Day was just one part of Slow Food Nation, the programming of which focused on sustainable food systems, “featur[ing] the clash of ideas, critical thinking from incisive minds, and inspiring dialogue among potential collaborators,” with the goal of starting important conversations that will lead to effective collaboration. One panel, called “Accessing the Price of Good Food,” attempted to examine the problem of limited access to good food, diet-related chronic health conditions, growing dependency on government food programs, and food insecurity. An interesting and ultimately essential contributor to the panel was Saru Jayaraman, from the Restaurant Opportunities Center.

She began by “justifying” her presence on the panel, since the inclusion of restaurant workers’ rights wasn’t necessarily an obvious fit for a panel on access. She made a firm, powerful and clear cry for the imperative inclusion of restaurant worker rights in any sustainable food movement (i.e. us, Slow Food) worth its salt. We’ve covered farmworker issues before on this blog, but never the rights of the many, many underpaid, abused restaurant workers in this country, and Jayaraman’s rallying cry was certainly felt here.

As Eric Schlosser said in the closing Food for Thought panel, “workers need to have a place at the table,” and not just the ones who get the food from the earth to the market. A meal is not sustainable if the tomato picker was abused, nor is it sustainable if the prep cook, busboy or waiter was either.

For more information on the Restaurant Opportunities Center, click here.
For more information on their recent victory reclaiming stolen tips for workers, click here.

UPDATE, 9/10/08: Check out his short video of Eric Schlosser, at Grist.org, discussing the importance of labor issues when it comes to sustainable agriculture.