Dean of Pardee RAND Graduate School, Susan Marquis: “The Fair Food Program is distinctly effective at bringing about fundamental change”…


Marquis: “After extensively researching the Fair Food Program I’ve concluded it is uniquely comprehensive and, therefore, distinctly effective at bringing about fundamental change.”

Hot on the heels of a remarkable new article published in the Sept/Oct issue of the Harvard Business Review (which cited the Fair Food Program as one of “the most important social impact success stories of the past century”) comes a new article this week from the Dean of Pardee RAND Graduate School, Susan Marquis, calling the FFP “uniquely comprehensive, and therefore, distinctly effective at bringing about fundamental change.”

The article, entitled “Campaign for Fair Food makes a real difference,” was published as an op/ed in the Tampa Bay Times.  After discussing the reasons for the FFP’s unique success, Marquis — who is also the Distinguished Chair in Policy Analysis at RAND and has written a book on the CIW and the Fair Food Program entitled “I Am Not A Tractor!”, due to be published on December 15 — takes Wendy’s to task for refusing to join the program that has become the gold standard for social responsibility in US agriculture today.

Here below is an excerpt from the article.  You can find it in its entirety here.

It began with a couple of dozen protesters and a giant papier-mâché tomato in front of a Taco Bell amid strip malls on Route 41 in Fort Myers, Florida. It was a colorful and appropriately humble backdrop for the announcement of a fast-food boycott that would grow into a nationwide campaign. With that boycott 17 years ago, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers kicked off its Campaign for Fair Food and demanded that Taco Bell and other fast-food giants take responsibility for their supply chains—and the people within them.

The goals of the coalition, a Florida-based human rights group, were relatively straightforward. They wanted corporations to acknowledge farmworkers have basic human rights—freedom from wage theft, sexual assault, gun violence and forced labor in America’s farm fields. They wanted the top of the food chain to demonstrate its responsibility for farmworkers by paying a “penny per pound” more for tomatoes, to bring farmworkers closer to a living wage. And for buyers to use their market power to hold growers accountable for following this code of conduct.

Four years later, Taco Bell signed the Fair Food agreement. Other big names joined, including Burger King and McDonald’s. By 2008, Whole Foods Markets had signed on. Wal-Mart came aboard in 2014, followed by other supermarket chains.

In 2010, growers—major corporate producers and farm owners—agreed to comply with the farmworker-driven code of conduct. The action was in response to market pressure from corporate food buyers, which now includes half of U.S. grocery stores. But it also was a reaction to the coalition’s exposure of modern-day slavery in America’s farm fields, to reports of workers having wages stolen or being threatened with violence if they tried to leave work crews.

Together, the coalition, growers and corporate buyers built what became the Fair Food Program. The results? Virtual elimination of the abuses farmworkers had lived with for much of the nation’s history, and worker wages that allow them to support their families. Growers gained a more stable and trained workforce and more efficient operations. And the fast-food giants? Confidence in the integrity of their supply chain for U.S.-grown tomatoes, a quality customers increasingly demand… (read more)

The op/ed closes with a parting shot at Wendy’s:

…  The Fair Food Program has transformed fields from Florida to New Jersey. It protects farmworkers while providing the major participating corporations with transparency in their supply chains and tremendous brand protection. The program has been widely recognized for vastly improving agricultural working conditions, and for changing the culture of America’s farm fields.

The seeming reluctance of Wendy’s to become allied with a program that has significantly changed lives for the better is disconcerting. Wendy’s latest slogan may well be “deliciously different,” but burgers that take into account human rights would be even more palatable—and marketable.

Head over to the RAND blog now and read the article in its entirety.