BillMoyers.com is proud to collaborate with TalkPoverty.org as we focus on poverty coverage over the next two weeks. Every day, visit BillMoyers.com to discover a new action you can take to help turn the tide in the fight against poverty.
A Florida strawberry harvester recently called the office of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. She described the strawberry farm where she had worked:
… in that company, you were never allowed to rest, there was no water, and the bathrooms were very far away. Every day, the supervisors and crew leaders would yell at workers, and fired many people on the spot for complaining.
The worker was calling not to report abuse, however, but rather to comment on her new job as a tomato picker in the Fair Food Program. At the tomato farm, she said,
it is beautiful… There is water, we have bathrooms and shade, and the best part is that they pay a bonus to workers every week. Anywhere from $50 or $60 or $70 a week.
She added, “It is a very good company. What a difference.”
The CIW’s Fair Food Program and Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model have transformed Florida’s $650 million tomato industry. The program is the gold standard for human rights in the fields today, including: worker-to-worker education on rights, a 24-hour complaint line and an effective complaint investigation and resolution process — all backed by market consequences for employers who refuse to respect their workers’ rights.
Now in its fourth season, the Fair Food Program is poised to expand, and bring respect and dignity for workers to new crops and new states. As underscored by the phone call from the former strawberry worker — that expansion can’t come soon enough.
We cannot extend human rights beyond Florida tomatoes, however, without more support from corporate buyers. In spite of the Fair Food Program’s incredible success, several major companies — including Wendy’s, Kroger, and Publix — staunchly refuse to join the Program and support human rights for the workers in their supply chains.
The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.