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USA: Fair Food Coalition urges Ahold, Publix, Wendy's & others to sign pact on tomato farm workers' rights

Protesters urge Wendy's to sign Fair Food Agreement - credit: Liz Joyce, WhyHungerThe Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its allies have long urged companies that source from Florida tomato farms to sign the Fair Food agreement, which gives workers greater protections against forced labour and other abuses, and guarantees them a living wage.  Many companies have signed the agreement, including restaurant chains Burger King, Chipotle, McDonald's, Subway, and YUM! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell); food service firms Aramark, Bon Appetit/Compass and Sodexo; and supermarkets Trader Joe's, Walmart and Whole Foods, as well as the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.  Publix supermarkets, Wendy's (fast food chain) and Ahold, which owns Giant and Stop & Shop supermarkets, have refused to sign.

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Article
1 September 2012

Fair Food Program helps end the use of slavery in the tomato fields [USA]

Author: [opinion] Holly Burkhalter, International Justice Mission, in Washington Post

Since 1997, the Justice Department has prosecuted seven cases of slavery in the Florida agricultural industry — four involving tomato harvesters — freeing more than 1,000 men and women. The...catalogue of horrors: abductions, pistol whippings, confinement at gunpoint, debt bondage and starvation wages...Today, virtually all Florida tomato growers have joined the Fair Food Program, which includes a code of conduct outlawing debt bondage and requiring humane conditions...Shade stations, toilets and drinking water are appearing...[R]etailers, pressed by consumers and civil society groups [led by Coalition of Immokalee Workers], saw the market and publicity benefits of ethical buying practices...But the Fair Food Program won’t be sustainable unless...grocery stores — [join]...Despite years of pressure...major supermarket chains including Ahold, Kroger’s and Publix have snubbed the Fair Food Program...[and its system of] independent monitoring and evaluation. [also refers to Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, Whole Foods, Aramark, Compass]

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Article
15 May 2013

UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights 'Impressed' With Fair Food Program

Author: Greg Asbed, Co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, in Huffington Post Blog

"The [UN] Working Group [on business & human rights] was impressed by how...governance gaps relating to labour issues were addressed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers"...The UN statement comes as the latest in a series of strong, high-level endorsements of the Fair Food Program [FPP], including last month's recognition by President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which lauded the FFP as "one of the most successful and innovative programs" in the world today in the fight to uncover -- and prevent -- modern-day slavery...The active participation of farmworkers...in the FFP model...distinguishes the program from virtually any other approach active in the field today...[T]he [FPP] and the UN's Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights arriving at the same place from very distinct points of departure: The human rights crisis is urgent, the safeguards in place are undeniably inadequate, and the key to a real, lasting solution is the participation -- better yet, the leadership -- of those affected by the abuses themselves. [Refers to Publix, Ahold, and Wendy's]

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Article
19 May 2013

[video] Coalition of Immokalee Workers Targets Wendy’s in Fair Food Campaign to Improve Wages, Conditions [USA]

Author: interview with Gerardo Reyes-Chávez of Coalition of Immokalee Workers, on Democracy Now!

Hundreds of farm workers and their supporters are in New York City ahead of Wendy’s shareholder meeting to demand improved working conditions for those who pick its tomatoes. The fast-food giant...is the latest target in the Fair Food Campaign organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. So far, McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King and Taco Bell [(part of Yum!), as well as Chipotle] have all joined the...program, agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes to raise wages and only buy from fields where workers’ rights are respected. [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Wendy's to respond. It indicated that its statement, "A Conversation about Florida Tomatoes", is its comment on this issue - see linked item]

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Company response
11 June 2013

Response by Wendy's: NGO urges Wendy's to join Fair Food Agreement to address forced labour, living wages & other issues for tomato pickers in supply chain.

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Article
11 June 2013

A Conversation about Florida Tomatoes [scroll down]

Author: Wendy's

Wendy’s is being targeted by an activist group called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and its allies...[They demand] we make payments to employees of the companies who supply our tomatoes...-- even though they are not Wendy’s employees. CIW is demanding an added fee on top of the price we pay our suppliers...we already pay a premium to our Florida tomato suppliers. We believe it’s inappropriate to demand that one company pay another company’s employees...Our responsibility to Wendy’s customers is to negotiate directly with our suppliers – not third-party organizations...All of the Florida tomatoes purchased by Wendy’s...come from suppliers who participate in the Fair Food Program, which means they have: 1. Adopted the Fair Food Code of Conduct; 2. Agreed to implement a system of health and safety volunteers...3. Agreed to...[a] complaint investigation and remediation mechanism; 4. Agreed to have compliance with...independent[] monitor[ing] 5. Agreed to a worker education program...

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Article
15 January 2014

Wal-Mart signs deal with farmworker program that fights harassment [USA]

Author: Bernice Yeung, Centre for Investigative Reporting (USA)

One of the most effective programs to curb sexual harassment and assault in the agriculture fields expands today with the inking of a national contract with Wal-Mart…Under the Fair Food Program, restaurant chains and grocery stores agree to pay a penny more per pound for Florida tomatoes. In exchange, they buy only from growers who’ve agreed to a strict code of conduct that includes increased pay and labor protections…Sexual harassment and assault of farmworkers is a persistent problem in American fields and packing houses…[and an] investigation featured Fair Food as one attempt to combat the problem…Growers who don’t follow the code can get banned from selling to places like McDonald’s and Taco Bell [part of YUM!] for at least three months…To ensure that farms are adhering to the code of conduct, growers must provide sexual harassment training and undergo regular external audits of work conditions…[Also refers to Aldi, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s (part of Aldi Nord), Whole Foods Market, YUM!]

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Article
15 January 2014

A Penny a Pound and So Much More [USA]

Author: Pooja Bhatia, OZY

Wal-Mart joined the Coalition’s Fair Food Program the day this story was published, making it the 12th, and largest, retailer to do so. Given Wal-Mart’s purchasing power and influence over other supermarkets, Reyes-Chavez says, it’s a huge development and might lead to an expansion of the Fair Food Program to states beyond Florida and crops besides tomatoes...“Since the very beginning of the Coalition, our demands have been essentially the same: fair wages and dignified treatment,” says Gerardo Reyes-Chavez, a longtime staff member..."[W]e realized we needed to go to the buyers of the produce we were picking, the McDonald’s and Taco Bells, because they’re the ones who have the greatest influence over the farmers, and the ones who benefit most from low wages and poor treatment of workers”...Could the Coalition’s strategy apply to other sectors, like garments assembled abroad or electronics made in China? ”It’s not impossible,” Reyes-Chavez says, “but a lot of pressure from different angles needs to be in place, and everyone has to work together...” Most important, he says, is that the movement be worker driven. [Also refers to Burger King, Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, McDonald’s, Subway, Whole Foods]

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Article
23 January 2014

Dignity for Farmworkers [USA]

Author: Kerry Kennedy, president of RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights, letter to editor of New York Times

The tactics of the business-backed Worker Center Watch and its ilk seem more desperate than ever. This month, Walmart joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program to advance farmworker rights...[The] people who harvest our food are paid poverty wages without overtime in an industry where a 95-hour workweek is considered standard. I’ve met men who worked 10 years without a day off, women who were sexually assaulted in the fields, and children as young as 14 who earn $3.20 an hour for backbreaking labor...[Let] us call on Publix supermarkets and the remaining holdouts to take this simple pledge: A penny more per pound to bring dignity to our farms.

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Article
31 March 2014

Coalition of Immokalee Workers campaign for Ahold to join Fair Food Program (USA)

Author: compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and allied groups have campaigned for several years for Ahold, which owns the US supermarket chains Giant, Martin's Food Markets and Stop & Shop, and the online grocery retailer Peapod, to join the Fair Food Program...Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Ahold to respond to...items [including]: “Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers: My Hopes for 2014”: "...we are dismayed by corporations like...Ahold who refuse to join 11 food industry leaders in being part of the historic changes"... “Immokalee to Amsterdam: CIW Takes Fair Food Challenge to Ahold Shareholders” [Ahold response provided. Also refers to McDonald's, YUM! (parent company of Taco Bell, KFC), Trader Joe's, Walmart, Whole Foods, Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.]

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Company response
14 April 2014

Response by Ahold: re calls to join US pact on farm workers' rights

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