USA: Food sector impacts on tomato farmworkers’ rights in Immokalee, Florida

In 2011, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) launched the Fair Food Program (FFP), a model for Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) based on a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and participating retail buyers. The movement was born out of concerns and evidence that Immokalee farmworkers faced situations of modern-day slavery.  Workers reported conditions of forced labour, violence, sexual abuse among other abuses. The FFP model has three defining characteristics (see a video explanation here):  (1) Worker-driven design and implementation of the program  (2) Third party monitoring of working conditions required by the Fair Food Program code  (3) Market consequences via retailers committing to cutting purchases from growers who do not comply with the code.

Through the FFP, companies sign up to legally binding Fair Food Agreements, in which participating buyers commit to buy Florida tomatoes only from growers that abide by the FFP code of conduct, and to cut off growers that fail to comply.  This code of conduct is unique as it is designed, monitored, and enforced by the workers whose rights it is intended to protect. In 2015, the programme expanded to investigate working conditions on tomato farms in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, as well as Florida strawberries and peppers. As of Aug 2016, over 30 companies, buyers, and growers have signed onto the FFP.

More information: Coalition of Immokalee Workers / Fair Food Program / Fair Food Standards Council

Timeline

Aug 1993: First meeting of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Jun 2001: CIW launches its Campaign for Fair Food in Florida

Sep 2004: Start of four-year boycott against Taco Bell until demands for improved wages are met

2005 - 2008: CIW announces accords with McDonald’, Whole Foods, Burger King, Subway, Yum Brands

Nov 2010: CIW signs landmark agreement with Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to expand the Fair Food Program across the Florida tomato industry

Feb 2011: Florida tomato workers start receiving Fair Food Premiums

Jan 2014: Walmart signs onto the Fair Food Program

May 2015: CIW and the Fair Food Program expands to include Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, and Maryland