José JoJo Gonzales is a 29-year-old fourth-generation Mexican American and father of a five-year-old little girl. He works at Taylor Farms, the largest processor and packager of fresh salads in the world with almost $2 billion in annual revenue. Their big clients include Darden Restaurants, (owner of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other restaurant chains), Walmart, McDonald's, Costco, and Trader Joe's.
Gonzales works at the Taylor Farms facility in Tracy, Calif., a Central Valley community about an hour south of Sacramento. Just like a growing number of workers in the food system and about a third of the 900 workers at Taylor's Tracy plant, José is officially employed by a temporary staffing agency, even though he has been working full-time for eight months. He works in the pasta room where he and his co-workers cook all the pasta for prepared salads that are put together in other areas of the plant. He is paid $8 per hour, the state's minimum wage.
"It's hard to survive off $8 an hour," Gonzales says. "It almost makes it impossible. I'm using all my money to pay other people."
Unfortunately, Gonzales' experience is not unusual. José is one of the almost 20 million people working in the domestic food system and millions more performing similar work around the world. In the United States, these 20 million include workers in the five major sectors of the food chain--farms and fisheries; food, meat and poultry processing; warehouse and distribution workers; grocery; and restaurant and food service. Together, these workers make the collective domestic food industry the largest employer in the country.