What is fueling the Fair Food Program? Market power.

This week, we’ve had an opportunity to explore the mechanisms that make the Fair Food Program such a powerful system for protecting farmworkers’ fundamental human rights.  We also took a look ahead at the limitless prospects for the Fair Food Program to expand its protections to tens of thousands of more farmworkers across the U.S. agricultural industry, as well as the parallel promise of expansion of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model to millions of more workers in new industries across the globe. 

As one worker in the Fair Food Program put it, “we are building a road forward, and we will never go back.”

We’ve come this far thanks to the unwavering support of allies like you.  During this week’s Sustainer Drive, you can show farmworkers that you are with them not just today, but every day, by becoming a Fair Food Sustainer.

Today, we want to talk about the power behind the Fair Food Program’s unique ability to enforce its human rights standards: market power.  Indeed, we’ve launched this week’s Sustainer Drive, in part, because we’re going to need a whole lot more of that power in the years ahead, if we’re going to make real, measurable advances in safety, dignity, and respect for millions more women and men who do the world’s most vulnerable and dangerous jobs.

As we look ahead to growing our collective power, it’s worth taking a moment to look at how we got here.

Nearly two decades ago, farmworkers in Immokalee were in the middle of building a formidable community-led movement against widespread violence and grinding poverty, when they paused to ask the question: Instead of having to respond to acts of violence and abuse in the fields – to instances of modern-day slavery and sexual violence, or to case after case of stolen wages – after the fact, how can we prevent them entirely?  How can we build a world without victims?

How do we go from the headline, “Farm bosses face a 12-year sentence for forced labor in Florida tomato fields,” to the headline, “No slavery cases in Florida tomato fields”? 

To achieve this ultimate goal of prevention, farmworkers took a step back and looked beyond the farm gate at the food industry supply chain as a whole.  And with that broader perspective, they realized that they needed to harness the power of the big buyers at the top of the supply chain – the billion-dollar food brands that dictate the price of produce, and in many ways the working conditions of farmworkers, at the bottom.  And to reach those buyers, farmworkers needed to make common cause with the ultimate power brokers: every day consumers.

And that is how the Alliance for Fair Food was born.  Since 2001, a small, tireless group of men and women have been working alongside farmworkers here in Immokalee, building bridges between the farmworker community and communities across the U.S. and the world in order to educate and mobilize hundreds of thousands of consumers to take action in support of the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food.  And together, we have won groundbreaking agreements with major food retailers, agreements that legally bind those buyers to require their suppliers to comply with the human rights standards of the Fair Food Code of Conduct.

And that is how the Fair Food Program has harnessed the market power of some of the largest corporations this world has ever known to enforce a forgotten farmworker community’s fundamental human rights. 

In addition to supporting the Fair Food Program Education Team, and the Fair Food Standards Council’s Human Rights Monitors, the Fair Food Sustainer Program helps to underwrite the invaluable work of the Alliance for Fair Food and the broader Campaign to bring new buyers into the Program.

But the Alliance for Fair Food’s tireless organizers cannot travel to presentations, produce brilliant social media campaigns, or support the farmworker community with translation, childcare, and collaborative strategizing without youFair Food Sustainers are essential to making the work of the AFF possible.  Click here to give just $10 a month.

The most exciting part of the Sustainer Drive is that we know that every single generous donation is flowing into a proven program making real change every day in farmworkers’ lives. 

Farmworkers in Immokalee, with the Alliance for Fair Food working alongside them every step of the way, have won campaign after campaign:  Today, we have 14 agreements with major restaurants, supermarkets, and food service providers that have become the driving force behind the Fair Food Program.  From the inaugural agreement with Taco Bell in 2005 to the agreement with Giant and Stop & Shop in 2015, the dedicated, strategic team in Immokalee has built enough market power to redress the imbalance of power that made abuses like modern-day slavery, sexual violence, and wage theft commonplace for decades.

Instead, harnessed by the Fair Food Program, today that market power enforces real human rights for tens of thousands of farmworkers. 

But we cannot stop there.  With your help as a Fair Food Sustainer, we can keep the Campaign for Fair Food vibrant and growing – and drive expansion of the Fair Food Program’s much-needed protections into new crops, states, and industries in the year ahead.

Click here to become a Sustainer today, and share the call to action widely with your friends, family, and community!