Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Now more than ever, it's clear the U.S. needs a $15 per hour minimum wage and universal health care. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Now more than ever, it's clear the U.S. needs a $15 per hour minimum wage and universal health care. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thank Farmers and Grocery Workers for Their Service

Our national security depends on those workers who feed us. They deserve a living wage and health care.

Kevin Basl

 by OtherWords

As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I’m often thanked for my service. I’ve never felt comfortable receiving this thanks. To be honest, I’m not proud of my participation in the Iraq War.

But recently, as the initial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the U.S., I was thanked for my service under very different circumstances. This time, I truly appreciated the sentiment.

I work part time at a small farm in upstate New York, harvesting greens, washing vegetables, and packing orders, among other tasks. When a customer came in last week to pick up 25 pounds of carrots, she surprised me by saying, “Our community appreciates your work. Thank you.”

When I’m thanked for my service as a veteran, I usually deflect the gesture. But on a chaotic day at the farm preparing orders for over-shopped local grocery stores, that customer’s “thank you” felt genuine, and I was grateful.

The current pandemic and economic crisis have made it clear that farmers, grocery workers, and other food producers and distributors perform an indispensable service to our nation. As the COVID-19 death toll rises and many citizens are quarantined, these essential workers leave home to ensure produce gets harvested, food gets packaged, and grocery shelves get stocked. They feed our nation.

Yet these workers are often treated as expendable labor, enduring long hours and poor conditions, while not receiving a living wage or health care benefits. That’s unacceptable.

If the mental health of farmers is a measure of how well our national food system is doing, we’re in bad shape. The high veteran and service member suicide rate is well-publicized (20 per day). Yet the rate among farm workers exceeds that of veterans. Lack of access to mental health care, partisan battles over the farm bill, tariffs, and crippling debt are all contributing factors.

Another thing to consider is that Mexican farm workers, tens of thousands of whom travel to the U.S. every year on work visas, form the backbone of our food production system. Without these workers, farm production would suffer significantly. Yet racism and discrimination towards Mexicans is rampant in the U.S., in no small part fueled by President Trump’s rhetoric. That’s hypocritical.

In these difficult times, we ought to say “thank you” to food producers and distributors for providing a life-sustaining service to our country. But more than that, we ought to thank them by ensuring they’re paid a living wage and can go to the hospital without going bankrupt.

Now more than ever, it’s clear the U.S. needs a $15 per hour minimum wage and universal health care. While we’re at it, we ought to de-fund and dismantle Trump’s ineffective and racist border wall and instead work to fix immigration policy, providing a clear path to U.S. citizenship for those who seek to live and work here.

Our national security depends on those workers who feed us. We ought to give them the support they deserve.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Kevin Basl

Kevin Basl is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He’s also an instructor for Combat Paper NJ and Warrior Writers, two veteran-focused arts organizations.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Intentional Vandalism' Leaves Thousands Without Power in North Carolina

One right-wing extremist implied that multiple electrical substations were targeted to disrupt a drag show in Moore County. Local law enforcement authorities and the FBI are investigating.

Kenny Stancil ·


GOP Silence on Trump's Call to Axe Constitution Reveals 'Full Embrace of Fascism': House Dem

"Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler 'great,'" said Rep. Bill Pascrell. "Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator."

Kenny Stancil ·


Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo