2019 in review, Part 3: “Now that we are united, we have strength. We are taking steps forward, and we cannot go back.”

Farmworker on a Fair Food farm: “These changes are now on many farms, but there are many more farms out there yet to be covered.”

Help bring the Fair Food Program to thousands more workers in 2020 and beyond!

In the first two parts of this series, we took a look back at our work over the past year building power among farmworkers in Florida and among every day consumers across the country in support of the Campaign for Fair Food.  Today, we want to focus on the fruit of those tireless labors: The Fair Food Program, the award-winning human rights model that has brought unprecedented, measurable change to the lives of tens of thousands of farmworkers in the U.S. agricultural industry.

For nearly a decade, the Fair Food Program’s critical components – wall-to-wall, worker-to-worker education sessions on farm labor rights under the Fair Food Code of Conduct; a swift and effective 24-hour complaint resolution process; in-depth field and farm office audits; and market consequences to enforce workers’ rights when they are violated – have been backed by the CIW’s legally-binding agreements with major buyers, from Whole Foods to Walmart, agreements you helped us win through years of committed action with the Campaign for Fair Food. But our fight for farmworkers fundamental human rights is far from over. 

If you donate today, your support will help us expand the hard-won human rights protections of the Fair Food Program to countless more farmworkers in 2020 and beyond!

The concrete impact of the Fair Food Program on farmworkers’ lives – changes that would not have been possible without donors like you – has been truly astonishing.  One longtime farmworker described the progress made under the Program, highlighting in particular the essential role of the FFP’s robust protections against retaliation for workers who file a complaint: 

The fields have changed.  Now we have better wages and better treatment for everyone. Before, there was nothing like that… Before, if you spoke out, you would be fired. Tomorrow, don’t come, there’s no work for you. But now that we are united, we have strength. We are taking steps forward, and we cannot go back. We have to go forward. We are building a road forward, and we will never go back.

Another worker, who also labored in the fields both before the Fair Food Program came into being and now today under the FFP’s protections, described how the changes wrought by the Program reach beyond the fields and into the workers’ homes and family lives:

Because of the Fair Food Program, we started to see better wages, and it changed our lives for the better – for me and for my children.

But despite these unparalleled advances for tens of thousands of workers under the Fair Food Program’s protections today, we cannot afford to be complacent.  Hundreds of thousands of workers around the country still suffer daily, outrageous abuses – from sexual harassment and assault to systemic wage theft and forced labor – on farms beyond the FFP’s reach.  Here are just three concrete examples:

  • In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission reached a record-breaking settlement of $17 million in a horrific case of sexual assault and harassment, in which women working in a packinghouse just 15 minutes north of Immokalee were routinely harassed and even raped by packing house supervisors.

  • In 2017, a Southwest Florida civil court handed down a $3.5 million judgment in a forced labor case uncovered by the CIW that involved death threats, sexual harassment, and widespread wage theft.  But, because of the delays inherent in the legal system, the judgment came fully seven years after the case was initially reported by workers, and it is highly unlikely the workers involved will ever see a penny of the judgment.  

  • And in April of this year the U.S. Department of Labor settled a case of labor trafficking that emerged from the sweet potato fields of North Carolina, in which guest workers, lured with promises of abundant work and decent pay, had their identifying documents immediately confiscated, received abysmally low salaries, and faced physical threats of violence when the workers dared to ask for what they were owed.

Sadly, farmworkers facing humiliating and exploitative conditions like those still vastly outnumber those experiencing the dignity and respect at work made possible by the Fair Food Program.  That’s the bad news.  But here’s the good news: Together, we have built a powerful, proven solution to those abuses.  And that simple fact means that we cannot be satisfied – and we will not be satisfied – until the Program’s unique mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing workers’ rights stretch from Florida to California, and everywhere in between where farmworkers harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat. 

With your help, we can bring these changes to thousands more farmworkers across the country in the years ahead.

As Reina, another farmworker in the Fair Food Program, succinctly put it:  “These changes are now on many farms, but there are many more farms out there yet to be covered.”

We can – and must – grow the Fair Food Program.  It is the only proven solution for ending the longstanding abuses that still plague the agricultural industry.  Donate today to help build a better future for U.S. farmworkers with the CIW’s award-winning Fair Food Program.