Hungry for Justice

Guest Blogger: Minsu Longiaru

Change is in the air. From music, to food, to transportation, to movements for justice, Detroit has always been a city for dreamers and doers. Today, Detroit is supporting the roots of a new movement – a movement for justice for those who work in our food system.

Food is a human right. The human rights of those who produce our food, from field to table, should be respected too. Detroit, like the rest of the nation, is home to a large and growing number of food system workers. Restaurant workers are one of the largest links in our nation’s food system. Metro Detroit alone is home to more than 130,000 restaurant workers. These workers, like the 20 million people who work in our nation’s food system are largely paid poverty wages, do not receive health insurance or paid sick days, and suffer high rates of illnesses and injuries. Some might say that’s just the way things are. There’s no hope for something better. But that’s not the Detroit way, now is it?

As local manufacturing jobs decline and more Detroiters move into food system jobs, the community is leading the way in reimagining and reshaping what it means to work in our local food system. The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-Michigan), a Detroit-based non-profit restaurant worker organization, is teaming together with the Southeast Michigan Restaurant Industry Roundtable, a gathering of restaurant owners, workers, and public officials, to promote family-supporting jobs, advancement opportunities, and sustainable practices in the restaurant industry. Detroit-based businesses like Avalon International Breads are doing the work of showing that placing a priority on investing in your employees and the community is not only the right thing to do, it is also good business.

At ROC, we end every meeting, protest, and event with a cheer that celebrates the diversity, unity, and power of our restaurant worker members. It goes like this: We Are Power. We Are Strong. Who are We? ROC-Michigan! The chant is then repeated in the native language of everyone gathered in the room. Arabic. Spanish. Bengali. Russian. Amharic. The many joined threads of our community.

We are power. Our power comes from the dreams we’re making a reality over the next year. A worker-owned restaurant in the heart of Detroit that sources from neighborhood urban farms and makes fresh, healthy food accessible to the public. The opportunity to get the training and skills you need to move into a living wage job. Laws and policies rooted in the experience and knowledge of restaurant workers and the unshakable belief that all workers deserve to be treated with dignity. The ability to know that if you stand up for your human rights on the job, the community will stand with you.

We are strong. Our strength is rooted in ourselves as a community. We have the strength to transform the injustices we have experienced into the energy we need to work towards a better world.

Who are we?
Grassroots leadership and volunteers are at the heart of all we do. Want to get involved?

For more information check out:

Detroit-based affiliate of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United), a national restaurant workers organization

National restaurant workers’ organization dedicated to improving working conditions and opportunities for advancement for the collective benefit of workers, employers, and consumers

Food Chain Workers Alliance:
Coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain

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