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A Proven Strategy Turn Fair Labor Into a Civil Rights Fight

Dolores Huerta at the Delano Strike in 1966.

Dolores Huerta at the Delano Strike in 1966. Photo by Jon Lewis, courtesy of LeRoy Chatfield

Dolores Huerta organized some of the most vulnerable workers in this country and, standing alongside them, stood up to their powerful bosses — and won. “When we started to organize farmworkers, people would say to us, ‘They’re poor, they don’t speak English, they’re not citizens. How are you going to possibly organize them?’ ” Huerta recalls in Dolores, a new documentary film about her life and work. “And, of course, the response that we had to that is, ‘The power is in your body.’ ”

The lesson of Dolores is that there is inherent power in the collective action of the most vulnerable and marginalized people. Huerta and the United Farm Workers, which she co-founded, built a powerful foundation for farmworkers’ rights by harnessing the energy of intersecting movements for race and gender equity to achieve justice and liberation for farmworkers in the 1960s and ’70s.

Fifty years later, those of us working to organize restaurant workers see tremendous parallels to Huerta and the farmworkers. Just as the farmworkers used the intersections of race, class, and gender inherent in their struggle to engage an audience beyond their industry, we at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United recognize an opportunity to expose the racial and gender biases within this fast-growing industry as part of an effort to raise wages and working conditions for all workers in the industry, and economy-wide.

Poster for Dolores

Today, nearly half of all Americans live near poverty, a rate that is likely to grow, due in no small measure to growth in the lowest-paying sectors of our economy — retail, care and service work, and the restaurant industry.

The restaurant industry alone employs almost 13 million workers. It is one of the largest and fastest-growing private-sector employers in the U.S. and also the largest single source of America’s lowest-paying jobs.

But it wasn’t just poverty wages and economic injustice that created the basis for Huerta and the UFW’s battle on behalf of farmworkers a couple generations ago. Racist exploitation and gender-based violence were ongoing struggles.

As Dolores describes, this largely immigrant and limited-English-speaking workforce lived in housing owned by their employers adjacent to the fields. In speaking up for their rights, they risked not only their jobs and wages, but their housing, as well. Women workers were particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault in the fields.

Dolores portrays some of the UFW’s success as its ability to appeal to people’s consciences across class and race lines.

Reaching across class and race lines has also been important for us. Most of the workers we organize — the 13 million servers, bartenders, cooks, dishwashers, and others in the restaurant industry — have been the main supporters of raising the minimum wage for all workers, including tipped workers. However, helping policymakers, the press, and the public understand the importance of raising the minimum wage and not excluding tipped workers has required us to reframe the conversation around not just poverty, but also around race and gender equity and human rights.

All our research has shown that the reason the restaurant industry is so large and fast-growing and yet so low-paying is the money, power, and influence of the National Restaurant Association, which represents many of the Fortune 500 restaurant chains.

The “Other NRA” has successfully lobbied to keep wages for tipped workers at just $2.13 an hour at the federal level. A majority female workforce, tipped restaurant workers suffer from incredible economic insecurity. In 2013, we at the ROC United launched the One Fair Wage campaign to eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers, and require that all employers pay workers the full minimum wage with tips on top.

Dolores Huerta press conference (1975)

Dolores Huerta press conference (1975). Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs Wayne State University

Initially, we focused on changing the pervasive image of tipped restaurant workers as white male servers, working in high-end restaurants and earning hundreds of dollars a night in tips. We wanted allies to understand that the typical tipped worker is more likely to be a woman of color, working a low-wage job at a corporate chain like Denny’s or IHOP, who experiences poverty at three times the rate of the overall workforce, is twice as likely to rely on food stamps, and is paid a wage so low she must rely on customer tips to make ends meet.

But poverty was not enough, and lawmakers and even our allies were not convinced that tipped workers should receive a full, fair minimum wage from their employer until we reframed the issue as one of race and gender inequity.

First, we exposed the slave history of the tipped minimum wage. When it comes to exploitation, farmworkers and restaurant workers share a common legacy: Their industries both depended on the institution of slavery. Tipping originated in feudal Europe, and when the practice was imported to the U.S. shortly after emancipation, restaurant and other business owners embraced tipping. They could employ newly freed black workers without paying them a wage, forcing them to survive on customer tips alone. Despite opposition from a growing populist movement at the time, tipping became the standard practice for the industry.

It’s no wonder then that, like farmworkers, restaurant workers were excluded from critical labor protections. The Fair Labor Standards Act established a minimum wage but omitted restaurant and other service workers.

Today, tipped workers are still subject to a sub-minimum wage system in 43 states, some as low as the $2.13 federal tipped minimum wage. Reframing the issue as a legacy of slavery won us innumerable allies; one legislator said, “Now I get it. We’ve supposedly resolved the question of slavery in this country, so that resolves for me the need to abolish the lower wage for tipped workers.”

We also published research showing that tipped workers are a majority female workforce enduring some of the worst sexual harassment of any industry. Research by ROC United shows that more than two-thirds of all women in the restaurant industry have experienced harassment from management, customers, and co-workers. In fact, the restaurant industry is the largest single source of sexual harassment claims at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Women who rely on tips for their income are coerced into accepting sexual harassment and abuse at work as just part of the job. For too many women, deciding whether to stand up to harassment at work is a choice between earning enough tips to put food on their tables or not.

In seven states — California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Alaska, and Montana — where employers are required to pay the full minimum wage with tips added, our research shows that women face half the rate of sexual harassment as women in states with a subminimum wage for tipped workers. Women in those states know they don’t have to tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to earn tips because they feel confident they will receive a full wage from their employer.

United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta organizing marchers

United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta organizing marchers on the 2nd day of March Coachella in Coachella, CA 1969. © 1976 George Ballis / Take Stock / The Image Works

When ROC United began highlighting the racist legacy of tipping and the relationship between tipping and sexual harassment in the industry, something shifted. Minimum-wage advocates told ROC they had never supported eliminating the tipped minimum wage until they understood the connection between tips earned and the extreme sexual harassment the women endured. Legislators have told us that they now support One Fair Wage out of concern for their daughters working in the industry.

The explosion of the #MeToo movement in October brought new public awareness to the everyday volume of sexual harassment that people, especially women, experience in the workplace. And shortly afterward, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support for eliminating the sub-minimum wage in New York — a policy that he realized would cut sexual harassment in half.

Today, we are working with high-profile celebrities and elected officials to move One Fair Wage across the country, one state at a time. We know it won’t be easy. Restaurant workers, other low-wage workers, and their allies today struggle to win support, just like Huerta and the farmworkers did. And then as now, framing the stories of these workers as low-wage earners is not enough. But people from various socioeconomic backgrounds recognize and understand a civil rights struggle when they see one. Thanks to Huerta, the farmworkers were able to reframe their message in this way. We follow in their footsteps.


How Locavores and Strong Allies Can Bring Justice to the Food System

Photo by Allison Achauer / Getty Images

Photo by Allison Achauer / Getty Images

A new book aimed at the socially conscious food activist explores how our food system can be a place for transformation through an alliance between the progressive and radical wings of the food movement.

As advocates for a just food system, most of us try to live by our beliefs. Shopping at the farmers markets: Check. Buying local and grass-fed: Check. We rail against Big Food, yet don’t dare, or bother, to look too far beneath the surface when we shop at Whole Foods or order from the organic aisle of Fresh Direct. We are walking, kale-stuffed characters out of Portlandia, better-intentioned than informed. After all, what are we really doing to change the system?

If this undercurrent of low-level guilt is one you’ve experienced, you might be a target of Eric Holt-Gimenez’s new book, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat. The book, by and large, delivers on its goal of serving as a political economic toolkit for the food movement. It’s Capitalism 101 for the socially conscious, would-be food activist.

A Foodie's Guide to Capitalism book cover
A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat

Holt-Gimenez, who is executive director of Food First, describes the rise of the capitalist food system from the first societies to domesticate plants and animals to the financialization of the farm and rampant corporate consolidations. Our food system, he argues, is one in which a few global companies now control every link of the food chain — from the land on which mega-farms are developed to food retailers. With each new merger, these monopolies drive more rural farmers off the land, increasing economic and environmental injustice.

But A Foodie’s Guide does offer up some hope and includes a call to action, as well. Holt-Gimenez believes our food system can be a place for systemic transformation through an alliance between the progressive and radical wings of the food movement — marrying things like community-supported agriculture and food hubs with the food sovereignty movement.

He believes these broad-based alliances, pulling in disparate groups such as women and people of color and what he calls the food proletariat, can mimic the once powerful alliance that existed between unions and the radical Left that agitated for change in the 1930s.

Yet even Holt-Gimenez admits that bringing down a capitalist system that now appears to be at its peak can seem daunting, as it did to him when he worked with a peasant-led agroecology movement in Latin America in the 1970s.

Bridging theory and action, as grassroots organizations like Indivisible have done, requires organization at the local level and engagement in party politics. To change the food system from within, we need to understand the complex set of policies that uphold it: the U.S. Farm Bill.

Johns Hopkins University political science professor Adam Sheingate, who has written about the evolution of the Farm Bill, sees it as “a political regime in decay.” Traditionally the bill addressed the needs of both rural farmers and urban dwellers. It offered fat subsidies to farmers, represented increasingly by single-crop lobbyists, and a federal nutrition program to address hunger among the urban poor.

But as critics of the industrial food system have gained traction — raising health and environmental concerns from the Left and calling for cuts in SNAP nutrition assistance from the Right — cracks and fissures, Sheingate says, have appeared.

A decaying regime, he says, whether viewed through the lens of the Farm Bill, or the mechanisms of the increasingly predatory capitalist structure through which it operates, opens up opportunity for resistance and change.

The concept of “food democracy” as an antidote or form of resistance could be useful, Sheingate suggests. He defines this as the condition in which people are active participants in shaping the food system in ways that extend beyond their behavior as consumers. The question it raises, however, is to what degree can consumers be motivated to push for food system change? Or is consumption just too easily co-opted by capitalism?

First, let’s look at the idea of voting with one’s fork. We like to think that opting for grass-fed beef, skipping meat altogether, or going vegan are all forms of resistance. But to Sheingate such practices are more feel-good than change-making. “Voting is already a limited form of political engagement,” shaped by wealth, education, and race, he says. Voting with one’s fork simply reproduces those inequalities. The idea that consumption is based on choice is a lie; the poor, he says, “can only buy the cheapest, least healthy foods.”

First, let’s look at the idea of voting with one’s fork. We like to think that opting for grass-fed beef, skipping meat altogether, or going vegan are all forms of resistance.

Similarly, Holt-Gimenez writes that institutions and movements we might think of as effective, and perhaps even progressive, largely serve to prop up the status quo. Anti-food waste initiatives, for example, have accepted the capitalist tradition of overproduction rather than working to prevent excess food from flooding the market in the first place.

Meanwhile, Big Philanthropy — embodied in the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations — along with the USDA, World Bank, and the IMF, believes in the power of technology and entrepreneurship and promotes capital-intensive agriculture and global markets as a way to end poverty and hunger. Like the Green Revolution that exported the U.S. industrial agricultural model in the mid-20th century, the ultimate result of such practices, Holt-Gimenez asserts, is to drive small farmers off the land.

A better path of resistance, both Holt-Gimenez and Sheingate agree, is activism at the grassroots level. Local food policy councils — born of corporate and federal systems’ inability to address inequities on the ground — have become a bright spot in the food justice movement. These organizations can work to address issues ranging from urban agriculture to improving food and climate resilience. The Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins counts 280 food policy councils across North America.

As the FPC movement has shown us, pushing back against a capitalist food system is within our control, even if it means just small daily acts. “When I plant a garden in my backyard, am I engaging in an act of resistance?” Sheingate asks rhetorically. “When I go to a farmers market in Baltimore, one of the more diverse places in the city, am I overcoming the hypersegregation of the city? Does that constitute an act of resistance?”

One clue to where to go from here, Sheingate suggests, may come from trying to understand what it is about food that makes it different from other platforms for political resistance. There are other anti-capitalist movements growing in cities across the country, Sheingate points out, “but I don’t see people coming together and forming knitting circles as a way to change the world.”

Food is a kind of paradox, he concludes, on the one hand, a hyper-concentrated system that is the epitome of capitalism, yet on the other, one whose very excesses and injustices have created cracks and fissures that show us the possibilities for a different, more just, system.


The Way Cheap Food Feeds Big Hunger and Inequality

Photo by Katrina wittkamp / Getty Images

Photo by Katrina wittkamp / Getty Images

Food waste has become a moral issue in my household. An ardent recycler, my wife admirably seeks ways to reduce the amount of trash our family generates. When I get lazy and toss some food scrap into the garbage can, rather than the green waste bin, she dutifully pulls it out and puts it in the right place.

Food waste seems to be taking over my life outside the home, as well. I recently authored a book, Big Hunger, critiquing the failure of the anti-hunger field to address systemic issues that cause hunger. Attendees at my book talks frequently ask my opinion on food waste as a solution to hunger.

The more I immerse myself in this topic, the more I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth. And watching the new Rockefeller Foundation-funded film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste only serves to exacerbate this feeling. Narrated by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Wasted! does provide an important contribution. It calls into question the obscene amounts of food that we waste from farm to table, along with the environmental damage such waste causes.

Wasted! poster
Wasted! The Story of Food Waste

The film provides examples of how such waste could be repurposed, following the Environmental Protection Agency’s food recovery hierarchy of using surplus food for people, animals, bioenergy, compost, and landfills, in that order. Wasted! entertains and educates as it seeks to inspire cultural change in the way we approach such factors as cosmetically imperfect produce, expiration dates, and the numerous unused parts of plants and animals that get plowed under or turned into pet food.

But the film goes bad in the first few minutes when it skips over source reduction, reducing the volume of surplus food generated, which is the first step in the EPA’s inverted pyramid hierarchy. It fails to address the much more complicated question of why we waste so much food in the first place.

As a nation, we seem to have the tendency to avoid these sticky political questions in favor of technological solutions, and in doing so ignore the economic system, policies, and incentives that encourage 40 percent of all food to go to waste.

Historically, food wasn’t wasted in lean times, when cultures had to survive literally on the crusts. Yet today, the industrialization of agriculture has rendered food relatively inexpensive, although the 12 percent of the population considered food insecure would likely disagree.

According to the USDA, Americans spend just 6.4 percent of their household income on food, less than any other nation.

Food is cheap not just because of mechanization, but also because we externalize the costs of its production onto the public till. Likewise, the price of food at the checkout does not reflect the full cost of labor. Companies such as Walmart, for example, routinely underpay their workers and encourage them to patronize food pantries or enroll in public food assistance programs to supplement their wages.

According to the Food Chain Workers Alliance, food chain workers are the lowest paid of any sector, earning on average $10 per hour as compared to the median wage for all industries of $17.53. Food chain workers are more likely to rely on public assistance and be more food insecure than in any other economic sector.

Thus, the low cost of ingredients and labor enable food waste. And if the food industry is addicted to overproduction, then the emergency food system is its enabler. Shelves at food pantries overflow with donated bakery products — things like breads and pastries. Why? Cheap sugar, wheat, butter, and labor make it economically viable for supermarkets to over-produce or over-order. They have found, by and large, that shoppers prefer an appearance of abundance and a wide selection from which to choose.

And when the unpurchased baked goods pass their “sell-by date,” retailers earn a tax deduction for donating them to charities at the generous midpoint between retail and wholesale price, allowing them to recapture part of their overhead. In addition, charitable donations can help retailers reduce their garbage disposal costs as well as improve their public image.

But what if these products are so unhealthy that dumping them onto the poor, who typically suffer from high rates of diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, just reinforces structural inequities in our society?

To their credit, many food banks around the country have dramatically increased the amount of fruits and veggies they distribute. A smaller number are refusing to accept junk food, especially soda. For example, the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., has removed 84 percent of unhealthy foods from its distribution stream by refusing full-calorie sodas, holiday candy, and sheet cakes, among other items.

Shelves at food pantries overflow with donated bakery products. Why? Cheap sugar, wheat, butter, and labor make it economically viable for supermarkets to over-produce or over-order.

At a recent talk I gave in Madison, Wisconsin, one attendee mentioned that after being provided information on diet-related health disparities and healthy food pantry initiatives, one food bank wanted to reduce the amount of pastries it distributed to customers. Following the EPA Food Recovery hierarchy, it found a pig farmer who would take the baked goods. All was fine, until a month later when the hog farmer informed them that he could no longer take the pastries because his pigs were getting too aggressive since consuming them. The similarities between pig and human physiology are well-documented.

It makes little sense to be rewarding companies with $200 million in tax deductions for donating surplus food to charity if our goal is to reduce food waste in the first place. Seen through a health lens, providing these tax deductions for junk food contradicts our nation’s dietary guidelines, which discourage consumption of foods high in sugar and salt.

And the food banks have become hooked, as well. I write in my book that the preservation of the tax deduction that companies receive for donating wasted food has been at the top of the legislative agenda of the nation’s food banking hub, Feeding America.

Perhaps what we need, as the film Wasted! suggests, is a culture shift, in which surplus food donations are seen as a badge of shame rather than one of corporate social responsibility. What if we taxed food waste rather than gave companies a tax break? What if, at minimum, we limited the tax deduction to only healthy foods, such as produce? What if food banks sought to make themselves obsolete within two decades by eliminating poverty rather than just perpetuating themselves by encouraging food waste?

In November, I was in Scotland, where the government is doing just that: looking for an exit strategy from the rapid growth of food charity, because they believe relying on food banks to be an inherently undignified way of life. Earlier in the year, I heard Toronto food activists liken the low quality of surplus food to the patronizing attitude with which the poor are too often treated. These critics said that food banks distribute “garbage food for garbage people.”

Here in the U.S., we badly need to shift our charity culture, to view food waste through the lens of the dignity, not to mention health, of the poor rather than through the prism of logistics and efficiency. During my years of research for Big Hunger, I have discovered racism and oppressive power dynamics within food pantries, as typically white and middle-class volunteers, such as myself, control the food that working-class and often people of color receive.

So, what should the industry do about existing food waste? Distributing surplus healthy food to people is clearly a superior option to throwing it away. Yet, food pantries are not the only option. Social enterprises such as L.A. Kitchen, Food Shift in Oakland, California, and Real Junk Food cafes in the U.K. provide other benefits, such as job creation and skills development. Many food banks have also moved in this direction, creating food processing and catering businesses.

Let’s be clear. Food waste distribution is not the solution to hunger except on a very temporary basis. Hunger is a symptom of poverty. Eliminating poverty will not be achieved by giving people day-old baguettes or even carrots and kale, but by working in solidarity to help them build their skills, education, wages, and political power. A bag of groceries is a measly substitute for political power.

Yes! But How?
DIY Ways to Live Sustainably

How to Say Goodbye

Photo by Peng Jin / Eye Em / Getty Images

Photo by Peng Jin / Eye Em / Getty Images

Talking to a dying loved one — or anyone dying you’ve known — is no easy task. Especially if your histories are complicated. What do you do with resentments and hurts? Saying nothing and doing nothing can have consequences for your own life. How do you honor your own feelings as well as the feelings of the other person? What helps with closure, when our goodbyes are not in person? Here are some ideas for a meaningful goodbye.

If you’re not sure what to say … Say what you feel.

Palliative-care physician Dr. Ira Byock, author of The Four Things That Matter Most, says that dying people typically want to hear and say four things: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.” These phrases carry the power to mend broken relationships and to honor meaningful ones, so consider building a conversation around them. Whatever the response may be, you have done what you could to address the heart of a relationship.

If you want to feel close … Do their favorite things.

Not everyone gets a chance to be there when a friend dies, especially someone who was important to us. This powerful, private goodbye can be done if you live apart or after a loved one is gone, for example, to mark a death anniversary. Doing an activity you once did together or something you remember the other person enjoying can help you feel close and hold on to a memory. Go for a bike ride, watch a favorite movie, or visit a favorite spot. You’ll be alone, but together.

If you want to feel connected … Organize a “secular shiva.”

Shiva is a week-long, sequestered mourning period in Judaism held in the home of the deceased where family members gather. It’s an opportunity to reinforce the bonds among loved ones left behind. You don’t have to be Jewish to do it. Friends can organize one, too. New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler notes that mourning rituals often served an important community-building function but are fading away. “Like all such traditions, they may not soften the blow of a loss, but they had the unmistakable boon of reaffirming the community itself.”

If you’re afraid to say goodbye, remember … Closure doesn’t mean forgetting.

Society tends to think that closure means putting hurts behind us and getting on with life. But when dealing with grief, that’s not how it works, writes Amy Florian, bereavement expert and author of No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients Through the Toughest Times of Life. “‘Closure?’ No, or at least not in the way people usually use that term. Acceptance — yes. Peace — yes. Moving forward — for sure. A future bright with love, joy, and hope — absolutely,” she wrote in Huffington Post. “Healing does not mean forgetting it; it means taking the life, love, and lessons into the future with you.”

If you never got a chance in person … Write them a letter.

Write down all the things you wish you would’ve said. Bottled-up emotions are unhealthy, but we don’t always get a chance to say what we need to say. So write them down. This is a way to get the words off your chest and manage your mental health without burdening a dying person. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression. You don’t have to share it with anyone. Read it out loud at a gravesite. Or just tuck it away.


Tax Overhaul and the Immorality of Inequality

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder of YES! Magazine. She is executive director of the Peoples Hub. @sarahvangelder.

Republicans in Congress and President Trump got their big political victory: a tax overhaul that vastly benefits the superrich and corporations at the expense of nearly everyone else.

On one hand, it’s not surprising — GOP leadership had clearly signaled their intent to reward their wealthy donors. On the other hand, it has shocking impacts on children, education, health care, the deficit, and the economy.

And, of course, it amps up inequality. Taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of income get the largest share of the benefits, according to the Tax Policy Center. This fact is not lost on the American public, two-thirds of whom believe the tax overhaul will help the wealthy more than the middle class.

The top 1 percent already owns 42 percent of the nation’s wealth. Especially pronounced is the gap between white households, which have a median wealth of $171,000, and Black families, with a median wealth of $17,600.

Societies tend to become more unequal over time, unless there is concerted pushback. Those who accumulate wealth — whether because of good fortune, hard work, talent, or ruthlessness — also accumulate power. And over time, the powerful find ways to shift the economic and political rules in their favor, affording them still more wealth and power. The process feeds on itself, growing like a cancer unless stopped by outside forces.

Religious leaders, traditions, or uprisings sometimes play that role. The prophets in the Old Testament called for the Jubilee year — for the forgiving of debts, the freeing of slaves, the return of land to the dispossessed.

In the New Testament, Jesus overturned the money changers’ tables in the temple and called on the rich to give to the poor.

There are parallel concerns within the Islamic faith. In the Quran, one should give gifts of money rather than lending money with interest. Interest is one of the most insidious drivers of inequality.

In the Pacific Northwest, Coast Salish tribes practice the potlatch; families gain status and respect by what they give away, not by what they possess.

In all these cases, a strong sense of shared morality helps combat the natural tendency of wealth and power to concentrate in a few hands.

With the notable exception of Pope Francis, though, few world religious leaders today are calling out the immorality of vast inequality. And of those who do speak about the hardship of living poor in America today, few show the courage once demonstrated by Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

People’s movements have been another way that inequality has been checked. The minimum wage, the 40-hour week, the income tax, and social spending all came about as the result of labor and other popular movements.

Scandinavian countries have some of the most progressive tax and spending policies, and these societies thrive, consistently ranking at or near the top of United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports.

Contrast that to the United States, where addiction is rampant, life expectancy is falling, infant mortality is the highest in the developed world, education quality is abysmal, and the country’s infrastructure is crumbling.

“Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy,” warned Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

An unequal society loses its sense of solidarity and social contract. A society that fails to invest in its children, to protect its land and water, or to build a future is courting collapse. Whether you are a member of a religious denomination or not, there is no way this can be moral.

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder of YES! Magazine. She is executive director of the Peoples Hub. @sarahvangelder.