Do you know about the Fair Food Program?
Alexis Armstrong – SWFCAHT Intern
At the July 9th Regional Partners Zoom meeting, we had a chance to learn more about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) through an informative conversation led by Uriel Zelaya-Perez and Nely Rodriguez, members of the CIW. In 1993, about six farm workers from various countries decided to speak out against the abuse they were facing. The farm workers sought advocacy as it was greatly needed due to the labor abuse they were facing such as over-work, sexual abuse, and gender-based violence. In addition, physical abuse was often expected if any farm worker were to speak out against the abuse and poor conditions they were facing. In the early 2000s, Immokalee, FL was known as “ground zero” for farm worker abuse. Therefore, farm workers began to organize and mobilize to gain community support to end their abuse. As more community organizations began to support the CIW, they were able to gain more traction. This allowed the CIW to perform outreach to other farms and raise awareness. Because farm workers in Southwest Florida can be from various countries like Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala, there was a language barrier to overcome when doing outreach. The CIW had a great idea to raise awareness through skits and colorful imagery that could speak to all. In an effort to create systemic change just in Southwest Florida, the traction that the CIW had gained spread to various parts of the country, which led to more farm workers speaking out against the abuse they suffered.
This outpouring of support led to the Fair Food Program (F.F.P). The CIW had so many community partners backing their cause, they were ready to put their needs into policy change. They began with three demands: first, that any corporation that signed onto the Fair Food Program would agree to pay one penny more per pound of tomatoes they bought and this money would go directly into the pockets of the farmworkers; secondly, corporations would agree to sign the Human Rights Code of Conduct Against abuse, essentially saying that if a farmworker experienced any abuse that corporation would cut ties with that farm in an effort to restrain business with thatowner. Finally, workers would be allowed to have a voice and would not experience retaliation if they spoke out. In the eleven years that the F.F.P hasexisted, it has put about $33 million back into the pockets of farm workers.
The most important step consumers can take in order to aid in the fight to end farm-worker abuse is to recognize and support only those corporations that have signed onto the Fair Food Program, and eat at restaurants like McDonald’s and Taco Bell that are also part of this program. Similarly, the call to “boycott Wendy’s” comes from Wendy’s Corporation’s refusal to sign onto the F.F.P for several years now. To learn more about the CIW as well as the Fair Food Program, please visit: https://ciw-online.org/contact/.