“We want these changes to exist not only for Florida farmworkers, but for all farmworkers…”

[hupso title=”.@FairFoodProgram team hits the road as FFP begins expansion northward!” url=”http://ciw-online.org/blog/2015/06/ffp-education-up-north/”]

Education_2015Summer_1

Fair Food Program Education team hits the road, leads the way as the FFP begins its expansion north out of Florida!

This week, the Fair Food Program passed a truly extraordinary milestone, and it was marked, quite literally, with a road sign that read, “Welcome to Georgia!”

The photo at the top of this post, taken in the early hours of the morning in a field near Bainbridge, Georgia, depicts the CIW education team conducting one of the Fair Food Program’s trademark worker-to-worker education sessions.  These trainings are the very heart of the Program, designed to equip workers with a thorough understanding of their rights under the Fair Food Code of Conduct — the right to work free of sexual harassment and slavery, the right to report abuses or problems on the farm without fear of retaliation, the right to shade, drinking water, and clean bathrooms in the fields, to name just a few.  Armed with this knowledge, workers themselves become the frontline defenders of their own rights, an army of thousands of monitors keeping a close watch over compliance with the Program’s code of conduct and signaling possible violations through reports to the Program’s 24-hr complaint line.  On this foundation of informed worker participation, the Fair Food Program has been able to transform the Florida tomato industry into what one policy expert in the New York Times called “the best working environment in American agriculture.” 

Education_Summer2015_3

And this summer that transformation begins its expansion well beyond Florida’s borders, as the Fair Food Program takes effect on farms in Walmart’s summer tomato supply chain in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey.  And Walmart is not alone in supporting the Fair Food Program’s expansion.  Just last month, Compass Group USA joined Walmart in pledging to expand its commitment to the Program beyond Florida tomatoes as a part of their broader sustainability platform. 

We’ll wrap up this brief update with a reflection from the education team themselves, shared from the road in Georgia:

The Fair Food Program has arrived, for the first time, in the northern states.  After so many years of fighting to protect the rights of workers, we are now at a turning point, opening new doors.  The workers at the northern farms, after quietly listening to our presentation, were excited to hear about their rights under the FFP, commenting:  “Things have really gotten better in Florida, it is very good that they are coming up to new states.  Where else will they be?  When will get you get to more places?” 

Education_2015Summer_2

 The growers also gave us a cordial welcome, announcing to the workers that we would all be “working together” to implement these new rights, “to make things better for everyone.”

This is what we’ve always wanted, what we’ve been fighting for.  We want these changes to exist not only for Florida farmworkers, but for all farmworkers.  All workers should have the right to speak freely when they are facing violence, sexual harassment, or harsh conditions in the industry.  The CIW’s work continues — we have never stopped, and this is a clear sign that our work is bearing fruit, and we are moving forward.

Keep an eye out for more exciting news from the Fair Food Program front in the weeks to come!