Policy Link: “Tomato Workers in Florida Remake an Industry”…

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What I found in the coalition was a group of people who believed in the same things we did — good working relationships and having a sustainable business. That’s the basis for a partnership.” Jon Esformes, Pacific Tomato Growers

Policy Link, the “national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works,” published a remarkable article yesterday — at once concise and wide-ranging — on the Fair Food Program as an example of a social change initiative that just works.   

The article, entitled America’s Tomorrow: Tomato Workers in Florida Remake an Industry,” offers up a straightforward analysis of the structure and unique spirit of the Fair Food Program and is distinguished by, among other things, a number of excellent quotations from the first grower to sign a Fair Food Agreement with the CIW, Jon Esformes, Operating Partner of Pacific Tomato Growers.  

Here below is an extended excerpt.  But, please, don’t just read the excerpt and move on.  If you have ever marched in protest, delivered a manager’s letter, or signed a petition in support of Fair Food, you really do owe it to yourself to read the article in its entirety (which can be found here) and celebrate, for a moment, the progress you have helped wrought: 


Tomato Workers in Florida Remake an Industry

Jon Esformes, one of the largest tomato producers in the nation, is a vocal champion for a worker-led campaign to remake his industry and create good jobs for some of the most vulnerable people in America. Why? Because raising the floor for farmworkers will help grow his business and reinvigorate a once-dominant industry struggling in the face of global competition.

By forging alliances with businesses like his, all along the tomato supply chain, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has achieved groundbreaking victories to improve wages and working conditions in Florida fields. The group has signed agreements with nearly all the growers in Florida, the nation’s leading fresh tomato producer, and with a dozen of the largest tomato buyers in the world, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Whole Foods and, most recently, Wal-Mart…

… “The natural assumption by businesses is that anytime someone is approaching them from a labor perspective, it is somehow not congruent with the direction of the business,” said Esformes, a fourth-generation grower who runs Pacific Tomato Growers, which is headquartered in Florida. “What I found in the coalition was a group of people who believed in the same things we did — good working relationships and having a sustainable business. That’s the basis for a partnership.”

And to think, Publix still calls the Fair Food Program “a labor dispute”

Policy Link, the institute behind the article, has a mission that just demands to be shared.  Have a look:

pl1Founded in 1999, PolicyLink connects the work of people on the ground to the creation of sustainable communities of opportunity that allow everyone to participate and prosper. Such communities offer access to quality jobs, affordable housing, good schools, transportation, and the benefits of healthy food and physical activity.

Guided by the belief that those closest to the nation’s challenges are central to finding solutions, PolicyLink relies on the wisdom, voice, and experience of local residents and organizations. Lifting Up What Works is our way of focusing attention on how people are working successfully to use local, state, and federal policy to create conditions that benefit everyone, especially people in low-income communities and communities of color. We share our findings and analysis through our publications, website and online tools, convenings, national summits, and in briefings with national and local policymakers.

Our work is grounded in the conviction that equity—just and fair inclusion—must drive all policy decisions.

To read more of this great article — and to learn more about Policy Link — click here.