What is the secret ingredient to the Fair Food Program? Worker participation.

Workers participate in a CIW-led worker-to-worker education session last summer before heading into the fields to pick on a Fair Food Program farm in South Carolina.

Dear friends,

As we write, the CIW’s worker-to-worker Education Team is once again hard at work on a farm in South Carolina, talking to farmworkers about their rights under the award-winning Fair Food Program.  If today’s session is anything like the hundreds of others that have gone before it on farms from Florida to New Jersey, the dialogue will sound something like this:

“Who really knows what’s happening between all of the tomato rows, each day?  Is it the people who work in the farm office?  Is it the crewleaders who drive between different areas of the farm?”

“No,” the harvesters reply, some laughing.

“Who knows every single time when the shade structure is broken, or there’s someone harassing one of your co-workers?  Is it the Fair Food Standards Council or CIW, all of us who come once or twice a year to do an education session or an audit?”


“Who, then, has the best knowledge of exactly what’s happening?  Who can monitor conditions better than anyone else?”

“All of us. Farmworkers.”

It is that simple principle of worker participation – built into the Program through all of its unique elements, including wall-to-wall worker education, a 24-hour trilingual hotline, and zero tolerance for retaliation against workers who speak up – that allows the Fair Food Program to succeed in preventing abuse.  When there is an effective education system coupled with a protected complaint resolution process, communication between workers and their employers is allowed to flow more freely.  As a result, small conflicts are reported before they escalate into violence, irresponsible bus drivers are reported before there is an accident, and off-color comments are reported before they turn into assault.  

And the Fair Food Program is able to achieve that gold standard of human rights protection: Prevention.

From its very inception, the Fair Food Program has been rooted in the expertise and leadership of farmworkers.  From the drafting of the Fair Food Code of Conduct years before it was to be implemented in 2o11, to the designing of the powerful infrastructure that facilitates worker participation in the Program today, workers’ voices have always been the secret ingredient for success on Fair Food Program farms.

This month, we are on the brink of breaking ground in Texas – and we need your help to make the Program’s expansion possible by becoming a Fair Food Sustainer.

There are still far too many farms across the country mired in agriculture’s shameful past, where reporting an abusive situation can cost you your job, and so abuse goes unchecked.  On those farms, the workers’ silence draws a dangerous veil across harsh — and all too often violent — conditions in the fields, allowing abuse to run rampant.  Yet with the Fair Food Program, we have all borne witness to the power of workers to help radically transform conditions in the fields and create a healthy, safe, and fair work environment.  

That is what transparency, and true protection against retaliation can achieve – the prevention of abuse, for farmworkers laboring to feed their families, for growers working to run a successful and respectable business, and for consumers like you, who are deeply invested in buying products that were harvested in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

Invest in protecting workers’ voices – and in bringing a proven worker-driven model to hundreds of thousands more farmworkers across the country – by becoming a Fair Food Sustainer today.