President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honor CIW with Global Citizen Award!


President Bill Clinton calls CIW’s Fair Food Program “the most astonishing thing politically happening in the world we’re living in today”

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) for “defending the human rights of farmworkers across the United States”. The Global Citizen Award was presented to the CIW by actress and activist Eva Longoria. The CIW received the Award alongside actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Atifete Jahjaga, the President of Kosovo. President Barack Obama will also speak at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

At the end of the evening, President Bill Clinton took the stage and singled out the CIW’s Fair Food Program as something he feels particularly strongly about:

“I want to close by saying the most astonishing thing politically in the world we’re living in today… is our Immokalee honorees.  We heard our first speaker say that 20 years ago, he was an 18-year-old farmworker… The idea that 20 years later, you could have gotten the biggest companies in the world to agree to use their market power to clean up the labor conditions, to raise the wages to decent wages.  You know, all over the world there are people just like you that are 18, who think that their only option is to pick up a gun or a bomb, and you proved them wrong.”

Eva Longoria, Executive Producer of the upcoming documentary Food Chains, introduced the CIW, drawing on her own involvement in the struggle for farmworker justice:

Eva-Longoria“I chose to advocate for farmworkers early in my life.  Not because I was a farm worker, I was not.  Not because anyone in my family were farmworkers, they were not.  I chose to advocate for them because I eat food.   I care about where it’s grown, how it’s grown an in the people pick it. We are the most well fed nation in the world, and the people who pick our food often go to bed hungry.”

CIW co-founders Lucas Benitez and Greg Asbed accepted the award on behalf of all of the CIW members and all of the allies around the country whose commitment to the struggle for Fair Food made this moment possible:

Lucas Benitez: “
Of course, we’d also like to thank the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton, for this award, which will only add to the growing visibility of the thousands of poor communities, from Immokalee to Bangladesh, where multinational corporations sew, grow and assemble the products we all consume.

In these communities, horrific tragedies and instances of dehumanizing abuse have darkened the headlines over and over again: unsafe factories, workers forced to labor against their will, a culture of sexual harassment and violence without redress.

For these workers, the traditional models of corporate social responsibility have failed them, often with tragic consequences. And so we asked a simple question: What if we, as workers ourselves, designed our own social responsibility program to protect our own human rights?


Greg Asbed: “That simple question enabled us to design — in partnership with Florida’s $650 million dollar tomato industry and a dozen of the world’s largest retail food corporations — a new way forward that we call Worker-driven Social Responsibility.

This model led to the Fair Food Program, a social responsibility program that is designed and enforced by the very workers whose rights it is intended to protect, in collaboration with the growers and retail food companies whose risks it has mitigated with unprecedented success.

With this approach, we’ve seen almost unimaginable change happen in only three growing seasons, including a near total reduction in the sexual harassment and violence against women in the fields, the injection of over $15 million into farm labor payrolls to address grinding generational poverty and, perhaps most dramatically, the elimination of forced labor in an industry once dubbed “Ground Zero for Modern-Day Slavery” by federal prosecutors.  Indeed, in 2010, our colleague Laura Germino stood with then Secretary of State Clinton to receive the State Department’s “Hero” award for our help in prosecuting slavery in Florida’s fields.  Today, just four short years later, we have traveled the road from prosecution to prevention, eliminating slavery altogether through the strict market consequences that underlie the Fair Food Program.

Today our Program is poised to expand into new states and new crops, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future for low-wage workers, not just in Florida, but around the world.  The vast promise of market-based, Worker-driven Social Responsibility is only now beginning to unfold, but the CGI Global Citizenship Award will surely provide an incomparable boost to our efforts to establish this important breakthrough as the gold standard for the protection and expansion of fundamental human rights.”

It was an unforgettable evening for a movement that has largely struggled in the shadows for two decades.  We could not be more grateful for the award and the recognition of the real, concrete advances in human rights already made through the Fair Food Program — and the almost limitless potential of continued progress for the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model in the future.  There will be much more to come this week from the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting — including the CIW’s Tuesday workshop, Market Mechanisms as Tools in the Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery — so stay tuned!