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

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Award-winning Fair Food Program breaks ground in Tennessee alongside longtime partner Sunripe Certified Brands and new FFP Participating Grower, Smoky Mountain Family Farms...

Even in these dark and difficult times, the Fair Food Program continues to inspire and transform lives for the better.

First came the publication last week of an unprecedented, decade-long study carried out by MSI Integrity, the Harvard University-incubated project that undertook an in-depth examination of 40 of the world's best-known social responsibility certification programs.  In a report titled "Not Fit for Purpose," MSI Integrity concluded that traditional corporate social responsibility schemes – including such well known brands as Fair Trade International, Rainforest Alliance, and the Equitable Food Initiative – "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 report went on to identify the Fair Food Program, specifically, and the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model more broadly, as the new "gold standard" in protecting workers' fundamental human rights in global supply chains.   

Then came the news this week that longtime Fair Food Program partner Sunripe Certified Brands – the first major grower to sign a Fair Food agreement way back in 2010 – is joining forces with another fourth-generation produce company, Pete Pappas and Sons, Inc., and Tennessee-based tomato grower Smoky Mountain Family Farms to launch a major new partnership in the summer tomato market.  And with which social responsibility program did this exciting new collaboration choose to partner?  With the Fair Food Program, of course, whose industry-leading worker protections made their debut this July in the Volunteer State...

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New study confirms: All social responsibility programs NOT created equal!

July 21, 2020

10-year, independent study by NGO MSI Integrity finds corporate-led, Multi-stakeholder Initiative (MSI) model for social responsibility “should not be relied upon for the protection of human rights”; Study concludes: “MSIs 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”; Study cites Fair Food Program, Worker-driven Social Responsibility model as leading examples of new “gold standard,” with effective mechanisms for “empowering rights holders to know and exercise their rights”… PLEASE SHARE: A decade of research from @MSIIntegrity finds systemic failures across 40 multi-stakeholder initiatives, […]

At “the epicenter of the epicenter”…

July 6, 2020

CIW’s Gerardo Reyes on MSNBC “Into America” podcast: “The people that place the food on the table of every family deserve better.” Month of June sees national media attention turn to the disaster unfolding in CIW’s backyard, as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Immokalee, rest of Florida… For people living in Immokalee, the month of June was like no other in living memory.  As the deadly coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the farmworker community, and increased testing — finally — revealed the depth and breadth of the virus’s reach, it became painfully clear that life in this small agricultural community would […]

Governor DeSantis on farmworkers: “You don’t want those folks mixing with the general public”…

June 22, 2020

Faced with skyrocketing infection rates and questions regarding his decision to re-open the state despite alarming data trends, Florida Governor DeSantis chooses division over compassion, scapegoating over science… Governor blames “overwhelmingly Hispanic” farmworkers, and crowded living and working conditions beyond their control, for sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases, rather than ask if his own actions — and inaction — might have contributed to the dramatic increase in suffering and death among farmworkers in his state;   CIW’s Silvia Perez: “Our community is very small so when a worker loses their life, the community notices and comes together to raise […]

Collier County Health Department announces new plans for ongoing, free, community-wide COVID-19 testing in Immokalee starting this weekend!

May 29, 2020

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida In response to dangerous spike of COVID-19 cases in Immokalee, Collier County Department of Health announces plans to partner with Doctors Without Borders and local clinic to provide urgently-needed testing!…  Dr. Seth Holmes on NBC2: “Florida is one of the main agricultural producers for the whole country, so if we can protect our farmworkers, we’re also protecting our food system.“ At the beginning of May, nearly two months into the coronavirus pandemic, there were only 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Immokalee.  Today, less than a month later, there […]

As Wendy’s greenhouse defense crumbles, allies look to hold company accountable at today’s annual shareholder meeting…

May 27, 2020

  America’s 2.5 million farmworkers are among the groups most at risk of contracting the coronavirus. @RKahnTroster of @truahrabbis #AsksTheCEO of @Wendys – Did it purchase tomatoes from Green Empire Farm – location of a major Covid-19 outbreak? https://t.co/aSTcNbQ2Zc @ciw — ICCR (@ICCRonline) May 22, 2020 Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster to Wendy’s: “Given the life-or-death stakes of unsafe working conditions under COVID-19, how can Wendy’s justify its continued failure to join the Fair Food Program?” Last week, we posted a reflection on the news of a massive COVID-19 outbreak at a greenhouse in upstate New York owned by Mastronardi Produce, one of the […]

As COVID-19 cases increase nearly tenfold in two weeks in Immokalee, Doctors Without Borders turns to the press for tests, resources…

May 20, 2020

Doctors Without Borders to NPR: We need “more access to tests that we can use so the persons who are positive, their contacts could get tested, so we can quell this outbreak.” After weeks of anxiety, it appears that the novel coronavirus has established a foothold in Immokalee.  Just last month, before state and local authorities agreed to implement three days of mass COVID-19 testing in Immokalee, the number of positive tests reported in the farmworker town hovered for several weeks in the 20-30s, creating the impression of a vulnerable community miraculously spared by the deadly virus.  Then, last week, […]

“The eyes of Florida are on [Gov.] DeSantis to protect the health and safety of the state’s farmworker communities…”

May 11, 2020

One week ago, we posted our last update from the battle to blunt the impact of the novel coronavirus here in Immokalee with the title “COVID-19 testing is underway in Immokalee!”  Finally – after more than a month of delay, nearly 40,000 signatures on a petition to Florida’s elected officials, multiple national news stories, and countless calls to Governor DeSantis – local health officials agreed to organize mass testing in Immokalee.  Soon, the farmworker community would have the data it needs to more effectively plan and lead the fight to protect itself from this deadly virus. Except “soon” is, apparently, […]

COVID-19 testing underway in Immokalee!

May 5, 2020

Hundreds of Immokalee residents walk, bike, and drive to mass testing site after governor, local health officials respond to growing call for support… Department of Health spokesperson: “We have heard the needs of Immokalee.  We understand the unique needs.” 3 times more people tested on first day alone than during entire month of April… After more than a month of calls to the governor, nearly 40,000 petition signatures, and countless national media stories, the pleas of Immokalee’s farmworker community for vital aid in the fight against the coronavirus are starting to be heard.  State and local health officials organized a […]

Persistence pays off: Governor DeSantis announces free, community-wide testing to begin in Immokalee this week!

May 1, 2020

Governor Ron DeSantis, during an hour-long briefing on reopening the Florida economy on Wednesday, announces new testing sites targeting “under-served” communities across Florida, making special mention of Immokalee. Promising new public/private collaboration starting to take shape in Immokalee to address COVID-19 crisis, giving vulnerable farmworker community new hope with aggressive, comprehensive defense strategy; Collaboration among state and county agencies, Nobel Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, and CIW to include free testing for symptomatic and non-symptomatic alike, contact tracing, and alternative housing for those who test positive and cannot self-isolate at home; Time remains the enemy, however, as the number of confirmed […]

CNN, CBS Evening News: Immokalee’s call for urgent farmworker protections receives national attention…

April 24, 2020

Advocates warn that many farmworkers are living and working in conditions that put their health at risk. And if coronavirus outbreaks hammer farmworker communities, they say it could put the nation’s food supply at risk, too. https://t.co/8BYl5ZCHVe pic.twitter.com/VfdDMOLB2G — Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) April 18, 2020 CNN Prime Time with Chris Cuomo: “If [farmworkers] get sick, and they can’t do their jobs, we’re going to see disruptions in the food chain. It shouldn’t be about avarice, it should be about humanity.” CBS Sunday Evening News: “Work or stay safe: A daily dilemma for laborers like [farmworker Gloria Carrera] across the […]