NPR’s 1A brings news of new book on CIW, story of Fair Food movement, to millions of listeners!

Dean of Pardee RAND Graduate School Susan Marquis’s book, “I am not a tractor!“, attracts national attention to remarkable story — and promising future — of Fair Food movement…

Over the past month, word has spread about an extraordinary new book from the Dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in California, Susan Marquis.  Marquis’s volume, titled “I Am Not a Tractor!: How Florida Farmworkers Took On the Fast Food Giants and Won” emerges from years of dedicated research, including hundreds of hours of conversation with CIW staff and auditors from the Fair Food Standards Council, and offers a history that stretches from the earliest days of CIW’s organizing all the way to the emergence of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model today. 

“I Am Not a Tractor” is a great read for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of social change, a must-read for all Fair Food activists, and a critical favorite.  In the words of Janice Fine, Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University:

Those who have been looking for the definitive story of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the origins of the country’s most effective labor monitoring program need look no further.  Susan L. Marquis has written a terrific account of the rise of the CIW and the Fair Food Standards Council.  She has asked all the right questions about the remarkable transformation they have brought about in Florida’s tomato fields — including how tot expand it beyond Florida and agriculture.”

You can find this exciting new book on Amazon here

So it is no surprise that the press is giving “I Am Not a Tractor” an enthusiastic reception.  Just yesterday, the nationally-syndicated National Public Radio show, 1A, brought author Susan Marquis and the CIW onto the show for a wide-ranging conversation about the history of how the Fair Food Program was born, as well as the obstacles and opportunities the Program faces today.  Although we encourage you to take a listen to the whole show, we have pulled a few highlights from the piece.

Prompted by 1A’s host Joshua Johnson, who asked why more corporations don’t jump at the opportunity to join the Fair Food Program and read aloud some familiar talking points from Wendy’s Headquarters, CIW’s Marley Moynahan responded to the fast food giant’s tired — and often dishonest — excuses for rejecting Fair Food:

Johnson then turned to Susan Marquis, asking her to also spell out the stark differences, both in design and impact, between traditional Corporate Social Responsibility models and the CIW’s Worker-driven Social Responsibility model:

It was a very informative story that got strongly positive feedback to CIW headquarters from listeners around the country, so if you didn’t get a chance to hear it the first time, you can listen to the entire story here.

Also, this past December, the Pardee RAND public policy blog sat down for an in-depth interview with Susan, drawing out her reflections on why the story of workers in Immokalee both caught her imagination and earned her respect over the years as she watched conditions in the fields transform.  Here’s are just a few highlights:

…The coalition saw that those corporate buyers—mostly grocery and fast food chains—held the real power to improve their conditions. Through public protests and boycotts, they convinced those buyers to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes and to uphold a code of conduct prohibiting physical violence, sexual harassment, and other abuses in the fields. That comprehensive approach, Marquis says, transformed Florida’s tomato fields into some of the best agricultural workplaces in America, without the need for new legislation, regulation, or government participation.

Her book is the product of years of independent research and personal interest. Essential support from RAND enabled her to begin writing during a two-month fellowship at RAND Europe.

I Am Not a Tractor! is not the only recent recognition of the coalition’s success. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has put on display a papier-mâché model that the coalition used in its protests, of the Statue of Liberty holding a bucket of tomatoes. In October, group cofounder Greg Asbed received a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on behalf of the coalition. […]

[…] Q: Other journalists and authors have covered parts of this story. What were you hoping to add?

A: I have a longtime interest in what it takes to actually effect change. You can do the research, you can make the recommendations, but that’s not enough. You must have a deep understanding of how to implement policy. And I realized that’s what I had to offer: What does it take to solve a persistent and complex policy problem? Why has this worked when most other programs have not? Talking about not just where the ideas came from, but how they are implemented. […]

[…] Q: Is this a model that could work in other industries?

A: It obviously applies to large-scale agriculture. It has expanded, in tomatoes, from Florida all the way up to New Jersey. It’s starting to move into peppers and strawberries. The Fair Food Program model has expanded to the dairy industry in Vermont: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been advising a group called Migrant Justice, who just signed an agreement with Ben & Jerry’s. But this model can reach much further, to factories and other low-wage workplaces in the global supply chain.

Make sure to check out the full piece on RAND’s website!

One final word on this exciting new book… Besides being a great read and an insightful window into the CIW’s unique model for social change, Professor Marquis‘ standard practice when writing on a subject is to donate a portion of her royalties to the organization studied — so your book purchase will even assist in the expansion of Fair Food Program!  Whether it’s for your own bookshelf or a gift for a friend, make sure to get a copy “I am not a tractor!”