1st Edition

Environmental Justice and Farm Labor

By Rebecca E. Berkey Copyright 2017
    200 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    210 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Utilizing a model derived from literature on environmental justice overlaid with multiple scales of agriculture, Environmental Justice and Farm Labor provides key insights about laborers in agriculture in the United States. It addresses three main topics: (1) justice-related issues facing farmers and laborers on farms; (2) how history and policy have impacted them; and (3) the opportunities and leverage points for change in improving justice outcomes.

    It explores who labors in US agriculture and the justice-related issues facing these workers, including occupational injury and illness, lack of access to healthcare, substandard housing, hunger, low wages, issues pertaining to immigration, and the inability to organize. In addition, it assesses the impacts of labor safety, immigration and international policy, and in particular the effects of organic and fair trade certification. Two detailed case studies, one based on conventional agriculture in Florida and the other on organic agriculture in the Northeast, highlight the interrelated but unique challenges facing those who labor in the different sectors of this complex agricultural system.

    Finally, it touches on justice claims and the role of grassroots activism in improving justice outcomes by highlighting organizations operating at multiple scales to contribute to the livelihood of farmers and laborers in the different areas of agriculture.

    Introduction: Environmental Justice and Farm Labor

    Labor Across the Continuum

    Book Structure

    A Word to Readers

    1. Environmental Justice and Framing Labor in Agriculture as a Justice Issue

    A Brief History of Environmental Justice

    Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations of Environmental Justice

    The Environmental Justice Summit: Defining a Movement

    Key Considerations of Environmental Justice

    Drawing from Coalition Building and Asset-Based Community Development

    Dimensions of Environmental Justice

    Labor in Agriculture as an Environmental Justice Issue

    2. Justice Issues Facing Laborers in Agriculture

    Process Claims: The Social Dimension of Farm Labor

    Evidence Claims: The Environmental and Structural Dimensions of Farm Labor


    3. A Brief History of and Impact of Policy on Laborers in US Agriculture

    Process Claims: The Social Dimension of Farm Labor

    Policies Impacting Immigrants in US. Agriculture

    The Role of Policy in Organic Agriculture: Definitions of Organic, Certification, and Impact on Practice

    Concluding Thoughts

    4. Case Study in Conventional Agriculture: The Farmworker Association of Florida

    Introduction to the Farmworker Association of Florida

    The Farmworker Association of Florida: An Exemplar of Justice for Farmworkers in Large-Scale Conventional Agriculture

    5. Case Study in Organic Agriculture: The Northeast Organic Farming Association

    Introduction to the Northeast Organic Farming Association

    Situating the Work in the Continuum of Farm Labor and Environmental Justice Claims

    Process Claims (Social Dimensions)

    Evidence Claims (Environmental/Structural Dimensions)

    Justice Claims (Recognition, Capabilities, and Participation)

    6. The Current Landscape of Change: Fighting for Justice for Agricultural Labor

    Justice Claims: How Should Things Be?

    7. Conclusion: What Will It Take to Change the Story?


    Rebecca E. Berkey is Director of Service-Learning, Northeastern University, Boston, USA, and Associate Director, Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative, USA.

    "In this book, Rebecca Berkey has made an important contribution to the growing literature on farm labor movements in the United States. She analyzes the historical and current day injustices experienced by farmworkers, aptly arguing that farm labor is an issue of environmental as well as social justice. It is a book that will resonate with all scholars, students, activists, and consumers who want to make big changes to the food system." - Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Assistant Professor, Food Studies, Syracuse University, NY, USA

    "Environmental Justice and Farm Labor examines environmental justice issues facing farmworkers in the United States. A growing scholarship has critically documented the injustices facing the low-wage, immigrant workers who do the bulk of the work in U.S. agriculture, and this book introduces the reader to these findings in an accessible way. The conclusion’s catalogue of organizations working for farmworker justice will be a valuable resource for readers wanting to get politically active beyond their food purchases and support organizations already doing this important work." - Jill Lindsey Harrison, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado-Boulder, USA

    "Berkey opens new lines of inquiry for two scholarly fields that don’t usually overlap so comprehensively.  She persuasively shows how farmworkers are frontline casualties of not only labor exploitation, but also environmental injustice." - Margaret Gray, Associate Professor, Political Science, Adelphi University, USA