Author Miriam Pawel: “The strongest model for farmworkers today is in Florida, where the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has achieved major gains – not through state law but through years of patient, creative organizing that produced a framework to improve wages and working conditions, with effective enforcement.”

Monday’s New York Times carried a provocative Op/Ed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian Miriam Pawel on a recent, and significant, legislative victory for farmworkers in New York State.  But while Pawel’s take on the new law is indeed intriguing – and merits serious consideration by farmworkers, farmworker advocates, and consumers fighting for a more modern, more dignified food system – her comments on the CIW and the Fair Food Program are certainly worth noting, as well.

Pawel – author of both the definitive biography of the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) founder Cesar Chavez (“The Crusades of Cesar Chavez”) and the most authoritative history of the UFW to date (“The Union of Their Dreams”) – opens her piece with a nod to the law’s historical significance:

After more than a decade of contentious debate, New York has passed a law that entitles farmworkers to basic rights that most workers take for granted — the right to earn overtime, have a day off, collect unemployment insurance and join a union. The law corrects injustices that date back to the exclusion of farmworkers and domestics from the National Labor Relations Act, in an effort to win Southern votes by exempting the largely black work forces…

But she simultaneously sounds a strong note of caution about the new law’s potential for bringing about meaningful labor progress in the fields, drawn from her study of the UFW’s history in California, where a similar law was passed decades ago:

… Yet this victory may prove to be largely symbolic. That is the sad lesson from California, which has had on the books for more than 40 years a farmworker statute hailed as the most pro-labor law in the country. The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 grants farmworkers the right to unionize, sets up procedures for speedy elections, allows union organizers access to growers’ fields and provides remedies for workers who are unjustly fired or penalized, including back pay.

But today, the board that administers the law is virtually moribund; it has not met in public since January. For most of the year it has lacked a quorum. And nobody seems to notice. Certainly not farmworkers, an overwhelmingly undocumented work force whose wages and conditions are for the most part arguably no better than decades ago...





Sept. 26-29, 2019: Student/Farmworker Alliance announces annual Encuentro in Immokalee!

July 14, 2019

Students, youth set to gather for massive strategy session for the Wendy’s Boycott, Boot the Braids Campaign… Even as CIW and Alliance for Fair Food organizers criss-cross the United States on a series of “Boot the Braids” Truth Tours this summer, young people around the country are preparing for one the most exciting times of the year:  The annual SFA Encuentro in Immokalee!  Building off this past spring’s “4 for Fair Food Tour” and the precedent-setting victory in the Boot the Braids Campaign at the University of Michigan, students are readying for the Encuentro, during which SFA activists flood into […]

Part One: “Boot the Braids” Truth Tour makes a splash along the East Coast!

July 9, 2019

Hundreds of students, people of faith and community leaders in Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Philadelphia, New Brunswick and New York prepare to support student-led effort to boot Wendy’s off campuses this fall… Last week, farmworker leaders of the CIW and student organizers with the Student/Farmworker Alliance wrapped up a two-week journey through six major cities along the East Coast, drawing to a close the first leg of the summer series of “Boot the Braids” Truth Tours.  With a full schedule of meetings and presentations with students, religious leaders, community-based organizations and city council members, the team of Fair Food organizers engaged […]

United Church of Christ presents the “Movement Maker” Award to CIW!

July 2, 2019

Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC Associate Minister of Justice and Local Ministries: The CIW “has embodied [the UCC ethos] with clarity, determination, resilience and strength on behalf of farmworkers whose holy work of planting and harvesting benefits us all.” Last week, on June 22nd, thousands of church leaders rose to their feet in a rousing ovation as the United Church of Christ named the Coalition of Immokalee Workers the recipients of their prestigious Movement Maker Award as the General Synod met in Milwaukee. The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate Minister of Justice and Local Ministries who hails from the frontlines of Ferguson, […]

The Guardian: Europe’s “healthy Mediterranean diet is, sometimes, the fruit of 21st-century slavery…”

June 28, 2019

The Guardian: “[European] supermarkets and their suppliers cite their use of certifications that are intended to reassure consumers that the goods we buy are produced under legal labour practices. But as these stories demonstrate, such figleaves are totally unreliable, and simply make the consumer unwittingly complicit: those purchasing Italian produce are unaware that their healthy Mediterranean diet is, sometimes, the fruit of 21st-century slavery…” Today, we wanted to bring you some news from across the pond. When we think of Europe – home to the United Nations and the European Union, birthplace of Fair Trade – we may envision a […]

When the Sunday funnies get real…

June 26, 2019

  The CSR model stops at solving the problem it was intended to solve — public relations crises — for the actors it was intended to serve, the global brands.  The WSR model, on the other hand, doesn’t stop until it addresses, and ultimately prevents, the human rights violations at the root of the public relations crises.  That is because WSR is designed by the very workers whose rights are in question, and is intended to end the abuse, poverty, and violence those workers face. The cartoon at the top of this post appeared earlier this month in Sunday comic […]

“The movement of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has seeded grassroots movements around the country…”

June 19, 2019

The promise of Worker-driven Social Responsibility:  “[The CIW’s] visionary leadership and unceasing support played a key role in the launch of Milk with Dignity, a worker-driven social responsibility program that is transforming the dairy industry, just as the Fair Food Program has transformed the tomato industry, to ensure respect and dignity for workers.” In August of 2017, we woke up to a stunning, and quite unexpected, article that had just come out in the Harvard Business Review.  There – on a list that also included car seats, Sesame Street, and the cure for polio – was the Fair Food Program, […]

“We are building a road forward, and we will never go back.”

June 17, 2019

“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 building a road forward, and we will never go back.” – Farmworker on a Fair Food Program farm, June 2018 One year ago, we dedicated a single summer week to one purpose:  Building a stronger foundation for the future of the Fair Food Program by inviting both longtime and brand-new Campaign for Fair Food supporters to become Fair Food Sustainers. This week, we need you – and your loved ones, and your […]

Australian news hub: The Fair Food Program is “the kind of change we need to see if we’re to eradicate sexual harassment once and for all.”

June 14, 2019

Independent Australia highlights Fair Food Program, calls on business leaders to take action: “…those leaders brave enough to face the problem and commit to solving it have much to gain, not the least of which is a positive impact on the bottom line.” Even Down Under, the Fair Food Program is blowing up! An excellent article came out yesterday on the escalating crisis of sexual harassment and assault in Australia, published by the Independent Australia news hub.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Australian news media landscape, Independent Australia is a fantastic journal focusing on “politics, democracy, the environment, Australian history and Australian […]

Part One: Report from Wendy’s 2019 annual shareholder meeting…

June 11, 2019

RFK Human Rights Executive Director Kerry Kennedy: “Why have you rejected a proven, verifiable solution, called for by farmworkers, consumers, and investors alike, knowing you could end injustice and bring your greenhouse suppliers into the Fair Food Program?”  Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor:  “We feel like we’re actually protecting workers’ rights…” Meeting Recap… Last week, Wendy’s corporate leaders gathered at the fast-food giant’s headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, for their annual shareholder meeting.  The company’s top brass – CEO Todd Penegor, Board Chairman and top shareholder Nelson Peltz, and Chief Communications Officer Liliana Esposito – assembled to report […]

Alliance for Fair Food announces “Faith in Fair Food” Summer Tour!

June 4, 2019

Faith communities make plans to turn up the heat on Wendy’s across the state of Florida, from Orlando to Tampa, Miami, Homestead, Ft. Lauderdale, Naples, and Sarasota this summer! Hot on the heels of the announcement of this summer’s Boot the Braids Tours, during which students and farmworkers will be mobilizing to kick Wendy’s off campuses from coast to coast, the Alliance for Fair Food has announced another major mobilization right here in Fair Food’s home state of Florida: the “Faith in Fair Food” Tour!  As we saw in Gainesville during the final stop of this spring’s 4 for Fair Food […]