CIW, Florida growers join forces to confront threat to Fair Food Program, hard fought labor reforms!

Third Labor Day op/ed focuses on joint efforts to protect still fragile human rights gains in the fields…

And now, for the third and final installment of our series, “Labor Day Op/Eds on the Fair Food Program,” we bring you an opinion piece entitled “Threat of a New Harvest of Shame,” from the Tampa Bay Times. Unlike the first two pieces, which focused on the urgent need for the supermarket industry (and the federal government) to support the Fair Food Program, this piece, penned by the CIW’s own Greg Asbed, cast light on a growing threat to the unprecedented changes taking place in Florida’s fields today:

“… In short, the Fair Food Program is the breakthrough Murrow and Lowe hoped for half a century ago, and in the two years since its inception it has already begun to bear fruit. In the words of award-winning journalist and author Barry Estabrook (Tomatoland), the CIW’s Fair Food Program has put the Florida tomato industry ‘on the road to becoming the most progressive group in the fruit and vegetable industry’ today. But now, just as this historic cooperative effort has begun to take root, it has come under attack from the most unlikely of quarters, the U.S. Commerce Department.

Inexplicably, the Commerce Department is contemplating actions that would allow artificially cheap Mexican tomatoes — tomatoes that are kept cheap in part due to the extreme exploitation of Mexican farmworkers — to continue to undercut Florida production and undermine the first real progress in generations in our country’s efforts to advance farmworkers’ human rights. Doing so would likely spark a race to the bottom that could reverse the promising course being pursued by Florida’s farmworkers and growers. This would be a precedent-setting approach that seriously draws into question the federal government’s commitment to protecting the public interest in cases like this, as the law requires it to do…”

After summarizing some of the complex trade issues involved in the current dispute, the piece concludes:

“… Morally, the United States should not be a party to such a race to the bottom. Legally, the public interest, the American public interest, does not allow it.

The CIW is engaged in a long, often difficult effort to build a brighter future for tomato workers. The Fair Food Program, while having already begun to fulfill its promise of a sustainable tomato industry that respects human rights, is still susceptible to being undermined by external threats.

Unfairly traded tomatoes are not the least of those. We implore policymakers in Washington to support U.S. tomato workers and their groundbreaking agreement with the growers, not to breathe new life into the dying Harvest of Shame.” read more

And with that we conclude our series of Labor Day 2012 op/eds on the CIW and the Fair Food Program. See the third installment in its entirety here, and check back again soon for more as the season slowly ramps up here at Campaign for Fair Food headquarters…