COVID-19 RESPONSE: Take action to protect farmworkers in Immokalee!


Genevieve LeBaron, author of new book Combatting Modern Slavery: Why Labour Governance Is Failing and What We Can Do About it, pens scathing critique of corporate-led social responsibility efforts for Reuters Foundation in op/ed titled, “It’s time to stop believing corporate fairy tales about modern slavery”;

“Study after study has found that tools like social auditing and ethical certification are profoundly flawed and ineffective when it comes to the worst forms of labour exploitation… Research reveals corporate fairytales for what they are: enthralling stories that are very unlikely to be true.”

This past August we reported on the publication of a landmark, 10-year study of 40 corporate social responsibility initiatives, titled “Not Fit for Purpose: The Grand Experiment of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives in Corporate Accountability, Human Rights, and Global Governance,” that concluded that the traditional, corporate-led model of social responsibility “should not be relied upon for the protection of human rights” in global supply chains.  That study, which compiled research on a wide range of corporate ethical  certification schemes — including such well-known social responsibility brands as Fair Trade International, the Rainforest Alliance, and the Ethical Food Initiative — found, in no uncertain terms, that those programs “are not effective tools for holding corporations accountable for abuses, protecting rights holders against human rights violations, or providing survivors and victims with access to remedy.”  The same study identified the Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model, and the CIW’s Fair Food Program specifically, as examples of the new “gold standard” for human rights protection in corporate supply chains, citing the WSR model’s strategic decision to situate workers and communities “at the center of decision-making,” and its harnessing of participating buyers’ market power to enforce human rights standards, as essential to endowing “rights holders” with real power to enforce their own rights.

And now, with the publication of a powerful new book by Genevieve LeBaron, a Professor of Politics and Co-Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield (UK), it would appear that a growing academic consensus has indeed emerged: The dominant social responsibility paradigm has failed, and the time has come for a concerted expansion of the WSR model to protect workers’ fundamental human rights in corporate supply chains.  

In an op/ed published by the Reuters Foundation to mark the release of her new book, Professor LeBaron wastes no time in getting straight to the heart of her thesis.  Her op/ed, titled “It’s time to stop believing corporate fairy tales about modern slavery,” begins:

Corporations love to tell fairytales about their efforts to eradicate modern slavery. On panels at the World Economic Forum, rock music festivals, and in glossy corporate social responsibility (CSR) brochures, they tell us about their codes of conduct that can prevent debt bondage in faraway lands and the heroic social auditors they hire to tame unruly factories. They regale us with stories about the criminal perpetrators of human trafficking and slavery contaminating otherwise pristine supply chains, and how their multi-stakeholder initiatives and working groups and partnerships with anti-slavery organizations can swoop in to save the day.

These stories are seductive…  We want to believe the happy and compelling stories they tell about bringing decent work and living wages to workers across the global economy are true.

But the evidence suggests they are not. As I argue in my new book Combatting Modern Slavery published today – on World Day against Trafficking in Persons – academic research including my own suggests that CSR is badly failing to detect, address, and prevent forced labour in the global economy.  Study after study has found that tools like social auditing and ethical certification are profoundly flawed and ineffective when it comes to the worst forms of labour exploitation… Research reveals corporate fairytales for what they are: enthralling stories that are very unlikely to be true...





“From empty standards to enforceable rights”…

October 15, 2020

Migrant Justice releases landmark report documenting unprecedented progress in Vermont dairy industry under Milk with Dignity Program; Worker under MWD Program: “Before we never spoke up, now we have the freedom to speak, without any fear that we’ll be fired.  You feel more secure, with all the benefits and knowing all your rights.”; Participating Farmer: “The [Milk with Dignity premium] might make the difference between us still having a farm a year from now or not.” Here below is a story of human rights progress on one of Vermont’s iconic dairy farms that you will not hear from any other […]

Students, youth set to gather this weekend for a virtual gathering of strategy building for the Wendy’s Campaign…

October 13, 2020

Apply today to join the Student/Farmworker Alliance 2020 Encuentro: “Piecing Together Justice,” Oct. 17-18… Despite all of the unforeseen challenges 2020 has thrown our way, the young leaders of the Student/Farmworker Alliance have once again banded together to push forward a critical marker of the Campaign for Fair Food’s yearly calendar: the annual SFA Encuentro gathering.  This weekend, Oct. 17-18, young people from across the country will gather virtually for a weekend of learning new organizing skills, strategizing with farmworker leaders of the CIW, and deepening their commitment to the movement for Fair Food.  There’s still time to submit your […]

COVID-19 MEDIA ROUND-UP: In Florida and across the country, farmworkers are denied adequate healthcare protections by state and local officials amid case surges…

October 9, 2020

National Geographic: “While empty grocery store shelves and mile-long food bank lines have become less prevalent than during the early days of the pandemic, advocates say essential workers and their families are still as vulnerable as ever…” Fall is officially here, and in Immokalee that means that the sidewalks along Main Street, the four-lane road running through  the heart of the Florida farmworker community, are filling up with migrant workers returning from northern states.  The new harvest season is just around the corner, and with it, the potential for another major outbreak of COVID-19. Indeed, even as new cases surge […]

Great new article in The Nation: “The Immokalee Way: Protecting Farmworkers Amid a Pandemic”…

October 7, 2020

Excellent reporting from The Nation takes sweeping look at this spring’s first big COVID-19 outbreak among essential farmworkers — involving workers sleeping two to a bed in overcrowded, unpermitted housing — at Green Empire greenhouse in upstate NY; Green Empire greenhouse “owned by Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce, the largest distributor of hydroponic, indoor-grown produce in North America, and owner of at least six such facilities across the United States”; While Wendy’s says Green Empire is not in its supply chain, Mastronardi is known supplier to Wendy’s; The Nation: “The outbreak at Green Empire, critics say, was the inevitable outcome of a legal structure that allows companies like Green Empire, Mastronardi, […]

Collier County Sheriff’s changing version of events that led to police shooting of Nicolas Morales undermines public trust in the investigation and demands immediate transparency…

October 2, 2020

Collier County Sheriff’s Office issues conflicting statements on last month’s fatal shooting of Nicolas Morales;  Multiple discrepancies cast doubt on several key elements of the events leading up to Nicolas’ death at the hands of Collier County deputies; Immokalee community demands answers, transparency, including release of Nicolas Morales’ autopsy report, any dashboard camera footage of the incident, transcript of any communications among the three deputies involved… Shortly after 1:00 am on September 17th, on a quiet street in a housing development located just south of Immokalee called Farm Worker Village, Corporal Pierre Richard Jean of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office […]

“The world has lost a giant, one who happily forsook Goliath for a life well-spent in David’s army.”

September 29, 2020

Steve Hitov, Pioneering Human Rights Strategist and General Counsel, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, dies at 72 As many readers of this site already know, Steve Hitov, the CIW’s longtime General Counsel — an essential member of the CIW’s strategic core and co-author of many of the CIW’s most important structural successes — passed away three weeks ago after living, and thriving, with multiple cancers for the final decade of his life.  He was 72 years old.  Steve was a fierce fighter for universal human rights, a brilliant legal thinker, and an inveterate sucker for a bad pun. There are not […]

BREAKING: Immokalee farmworker Nicholas Morales shot and killed by Collier County Sheriff’s Office

September 19, 2020

“They didn’t kill an animal; they killed a human being… I want justice for this man and this young child that is left without a dad,” said Yola Martinez, close friend of Nicholas Morales, Immokalee farmworker shot and killed by Collier County Sheriff deputies… CIW: “We must have a full investigation and justice for Nicholas and his family, as well as for the broader Immokalee community as a whole.  And so that justice may be done, we demand to know the truth.” Today, we are heart-broken to bring you what we know of a still-developing story from right here in Immokalee […]

Gov. DeSantis, Collier County: Take action NOW to protect Immokalee’s farmworkers from COVID-19 ahead of the harvest!

September 3, 2020

The clock is ticking: Farmworkers returning to Florida for the fall harvest season, students returning to school in Immokalee for in-person classes, combine to create fertile ground for a new COVID-19 outbreak; State and county health officials must take immediate action, work with internationally-acclaimed Partners In Health to protect the Sunshine State’s essential workers! Over the past several months, Florida became a global hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic, reaching record-breaking infection levels in early July that would have ranked the state 4th in the world for new coronavirus cases in a day if it were a country.  The rural farmworker community […]

A quote by the late Congressman John Lewis resurfaces, and not a moment too soon…

August 28, 2020

Civil Rights hero cites CIW in introduction to his final book on his life in the fight for social justice… Congressman John Lewis: “Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.” To quote, or perhaps to paraphrase, Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try (our) souls.” Paine was of course talking about a particularly dark and difficult moment in the history of the American Revolution, but he might as well have been talking about America today, 244 years later.   This week […]

This fall, host a CIW farmworker leader as a virtual speaker in your classroom, congregation, or community meeting!

August 26, 2020

This fall, farmworker leaders of the CIW will be traveling virtually from Immokalee to cities across the country to speak with students, community leaders, and people of faith about the struggle for essential farmworkers’ rights – and about the CIW’s award-winning Fair Food Program, recently called the new “gold standard” for protecting human rights in global supply chains! Don’t miss this opportunity to schedule a virtual presentation in your community today. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the longstanding inequities at the heart of our food system, from meatpacking factories to the fields. The need for enforceable protections and safety measures […]