MacArthur Foundation: WSR is a “visionary strategy… with potential to transform workplace environments across the global supply chain.”

Dear friends,

Each day this week, we have revisited a significant moment in the CIW’s 25-year history, moments that, when taken together, tell the remarkable story of a small organization in a dirt-poor farmworker community on the edge of the Everglades that managed to build common cause with consumers across the country to demand an entirely new kind of food: Fair Food.  The dramatic 30-day hunger strike during the 1997-1998 holiday season.  The launch of the Taco Bell Boycott on the side of the Highway 41 in Ft. Myers, Florida, in 2001.  The creation of the Fair Food Program in 2010 and its implementation on over 90% of Florida’s $650 million tomato industry just one year later.  The expansion of the Fair Food Program into new states and new crops beginning in 2014.

The powerful farmworker/consumer alliance that resulted from those moments – and from the untiring process of education and action that connected the spaces between those milestones – allowed workers and their consumer allies to harness the unprecedented purchasing power of some of the world’s largest food corporations to improve, rather than impoverish, the lives of tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families.  And with that power, we are building a new world today well beyond the confines of the tomato industry, as the model forged in fields once known as “ground zero for modern-day slavery” is being taken up by workers, growers, and corporations, in different industries and on different continents, looking to end longstanding human rights violations at the bottom of corporate supply chains.

One lesson from this extraordinary history is crystal clear: We never could have made it this far without you. 

In celebration of the CIW’s 25th Anniversary – and to lay the groundwork for the next 25 years of transformational change – we need your help to raise $50,000 by the end of the year.  Can you pitch in today, and share the fundraiser with your friends and families?

Our work together is far from over.  A bright future lies ahead of us, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get started on ensuring that, within the next quarter century, we bring change to the millions of workers and their families who still suffer outrageous indignities – from sexual assault to forced labor – on the job.

And to be sure, the world is eager for change.

Once the Fair Food Program took root, it wasn’t long before the new model demonstrated concrete, measurable proof of concept, that its powerful mechanisms can bring about unprecedented progress, and that the model is both scalable within industries and replicable across them.  We quickly recognized that the fundamental elements of the Fair Food Program – the worker-informed Code of Conduct, in-depth worker education, the 24-hour complaint investigation and resolution process, wall-to-wall monitoring, and above all, the power of swift, effective market enforcement for human rights violations guaranteed through our Fair Food Agreements – established a new paradigm for change that could be implemented, and succeed, across global supply chains.  We called that new paradigm Worker-driven Social Responsibility.

In the past three years alone, the WSR model has served as a blueprint for Vermont dairy workers and Bangladeshi garment workers, for New York fashion models and Minneapolis construction workers.  In Vermont, the Milk with Dignity Program – modeled closely on the Fair Food Program – has been implemented on over 70 dairy farms across the northeast.  And in the age of #MeToo, the power of the model to not just remedy, but prevent, sexual harassment and sexual assault has not been lost on women looking to end the drastic imbalance of power at work that drives those violations.  From Hollywood to Lesotho, women are studying the program and making plans to implement its groundbreaking mechanisms in their worlds.  Once again, we are witnessing the dawn of a new day for countless workers in multiple new industries, thanks to the pioneering work that all began 25 years ago in Immokalee. 

In the words of one dairy worker in Vermont:

Vermont dairy workers head to work in the early morning. Photo by Caleb Kenna.

“Now that we’re in the program, I learned my rights as a worker… about how we should be treated.  Now we can speak freely, without fear.”

In recognition of the model’s exceptional success, WSR was deemed a “visionary strategy… with potential to transform workplace environments across the global supply chain” by the MacArthur Foundation; a model that “must be considered a benchmark” in the global fight against slavery by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking; and, “an extraordinary accomplishment, [that] reminds all of us… that dedicated individuals, like those here with us today from the Coalition, can strike out against injustice, break down barriers, and make a world of difference” by former Secretary of State John Kerry, in presenting a Presidential Medal to CIW at a White House ceremony in 2015.

Today, we are placing the future of this human rights movement in your hands.  Without you, the model of Worker-driven Social Responsibility will not reach its full potential, it will fall short of is promise to improve the lives of the millions of workers across the world.  Support Fair Food today, and help us reach our goal of $50,000 by the end of 2018 to launch us into the next 25 years of what is quickly becoming a global human rights movement.

Click here to donate now, and please share the fundraiser with your friends and family.