In 2001, an avalanche of layoffs in Eastern Maine began, with over 1,000 jobs lost to outsourcing by year’s end. Union members teamed up with allies to reach out to those workers who had lost their jobs due to trade. Out of this organizing arose what became Food AND Medicine (FAM), a committee of laid-off workers and union members whose goal was to fight for laid off workers and build a broad coalition for working families.
Our name* is our position – we believe it an outrage for people in the richest country in the world to be forced to choose between food, medicine or other basic necessities. We launched with an increasingly militant, creative campaign to win health care benefits for workers laid off from Trade Adjustment Assistance certified plant closings. After a series of escalating tactics, Senators Snowe and Collins consented to support the measure, which was pivotal in passing the first health aid to laid off workers in US history. Along the way, public consciousness of the reality of laid off workers grew. Politicians, media and union members all responded to assist union members by donating (over the years totaling over $80,000) to give direct aid to laid off workers.
Since then, FAM has built a powerful, creative movement for worker justice in Eastern Maine. Throughout our growth, we have strived to enable those directly affected by poor conditions and inadequate social policies to take an active, leadership role in bringing awareness and change. Our work has been informed by a knowledge of our community gained through research and outreach. Our accomplishments have included well-attended events and educational programs, victorious legislative and workplace organizing campaigns, and creation of alternative economic and cultural structures.
*Our name is inspired by the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike in Lowell, Massachusetts. This historic, extremely violent strike was pivotal in worker rights. The term, “Bread and Roses” refers to the right of working people to have not only food or necessities (bread) but also nice things in life (roses).