Drumbeat grows louder for FFP as proven solution for Time’s Up movement!

The Nation: “When it comes to creating a workplace where women are empowered to report sexual harassment—and receive justice rather than retaliation when they do so—the farmworkers of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) offer a proven model…”

The list of publications connecting the dots between the Time’s Up movement and the CIW’s Fair Food Program — the former a movement that has built an extraordinary amount of awareness and is now in search of a solution, the latter a movement that has built an extraordinary solution and is in constant search of greater awareness — is growing by the day.  From the New York Times to Public Radio International, media outlets taking a serious look at how to solve the problem of sexual abuse exposed in Hollywood, and now on the table there and in workplaces across the country, have time and again looked to the proven success of the Fair Food Program as a model.

Now comes the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, The Nation, with an article titled, “What Farmworkers Can Teach Hollywood About Ending Sexual Harassment: A proven model for creating a safer workplace exists in Florida’s tomato fields,” by longtime CIW observer Greg Kaufmann.  The article’s opening paragraph frames the theme clearly:

What could Hollywood’s brightest stars learn from farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields? When it comes to creating a workplace where women are empowered to report sexual harassment—and receive justice rather than retaliation when they do so—the farmworkers of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) offer a proven model. That the group created this solution in a town known less than a decade ago as “ground zero for modern slavery” makes it all the more remarkable and promising for other industries…

From there it goes on to describe the Fair Food Program’s unprecedented success, quoting the CIW’s Nely Rodriguez extensively on the question of progress against sexual harassment, specifically:

… Nely Rodriguez, a CIW staff member originally from Mexico, says it’s the economic consequences that make all the difference. “We’ve shown how the power of the market can be used to improve the conditions in the field,” she says. Under the FFP, workers are able to monitor their own workplaces for violations of the code, and can lodge complaints via a trilingual 24-hour hotline operated by an independent monitoring organization, which does annual announced and unannounced audits on every participating farm and investigates all complaints…

… Since the Fair Food Program started, “Everything about working in the fields as a woman has changed,” Rodriguez says. Every new hire immediately receives a trilingual pamphlet and watches a CIW-produced video about the code, and then participates in worker-to-worker education sessions in the fields. “You literally can see people speaking up about issues—even in front of the bosses—during these sessions,” she says. “You see the lack of fear—it’s a completely different culture,” Rodriguez says. Prior to the FFP, it was “commonplace” to either suffer sexual violence or to know a victim, “and there was never any consequence if it came to light, or the consequence was the woman losing work.”

The article closes with a thought experiment on how the FFP could be replicated in the film and television industry:

… Could this approach work in the television and film industry? The key question is, what parts of the supply chain are equivalent to the tomato buyers? If a CIW-like movement led by the women of Hollywood inked legally binding agreements with 150 major corporations, declaring that they would not buy advertising on network shows that were in violation of a code offering recourse to victims of harassment or assault—that could be a start. What about agreements with the platforms that stream content, like Netflix, mandating that they will carry only films or shows produced by companies that are in compliance with that same code? One could even look at potential agreements with cable providers and national movie-theater chains. All of these agreements would together send a signal that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated in the television and video supply chain, and that companies that do not comply with the agreed-upon code will experience severe economic consequences.

“All Hollywood has to do is ask who has the power, and then bring public pressure to get those agreements signed,” says Rodriguez. “If a solution came from the most unexpected place to eliminate sexual violence in the workplace, they can do it too. And then they could help make sure the model reaches more workers in industries across the country who don’t have the platform and resources that they have.”

You can read the article in its entirety here.  It is an excellent reflection on how best to shift from the awareness-building phase of high profile public shaming of individual bad actors to the next level of systemic change, with the implementation of a proven method for redressing unequal power structures and backward cultures that lie at the root of sexual abuse in workplaces across the country, where millions of women work.  

Meanwhile, The Marjorie, an exciting new online publication focusing on environmental and social issues in Florida, ran an extensive account of the history, current impact, and future of the CIW and the Fair Food Program that also highlighted the FFP’s immense potential for addressing the problem of sexual harassment and assault in workplaces across the country. 

Here’s an excerpt from the in-depth report, titled “A Penny More Per Pound: How Florida Farmworkers Are Putting an End to Sexual Assault and Other Workplace Abuses”:

… Hey, Hollywood

Women in Hollywood have recently launched the Times Up Now initiative to end sexual harassment and assault every workplace. Their campaign includes a $13 million legal defense fund to help women in blue-collar jobs and farm work protecting women from fear of retaliation when reporting an abuse.

“The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly,” says an open letter signed by the likes of Natalie Portman, Kerry Walsh and Reese Witherspoon.

But the Times Up Now movement shouldn’t shy away from listening to the coalition, who has solid advice based on years experience, on how to get from the often traumatizing prosecution stage to the prevention stage.

“This just doesn’t just help out farm workers in Florida,” said Julia de la Cruz , a Coalition staff member who has worked in the fields of Immokalee for about 10 years. Her interview was conducted in Spanish and translated by an interpreter.

“But it has the potential to affect workers in many different industries, in many different places to really make those conditions that they’re facing even better,” she said…

Be sure to head over to The Marjorie to check out the report in its entirety, it’s well worth it!