2019 in review, Part 4: The vast potential of Worker-driven Social Responsibility…

Farmworkers in the Milk With Dignity Program, established by Vermont’s Migrant Justice through a longstanding collaboration with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Standards Council, get an early start on a local dairy farm.

Help bring the revolutionary new human rights model to workers in corporate supply chains across the U.S. and around the globe in 2020!

Nearly ten years ago, a little known experiment in human rights protection — the CIW’s Fair Food Program, with its groundbreaking mix of worker-driven, market-backed mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing farm labor rights — was taking root in Florida’s tomato fields.  And today, at the dawn of a new decade, it is the unprecedented success of that experiment that provides perhaps the greatest hope for progress for low-wage workers in the years ahead, whether they labor in the fields or in factories, here in the US or abroad.  

Within just a few years of its launch in 2011, news of the Fair Food Program’s unique new approach and stunning results spread quickly. Workers around the globe learned that a new model was taking shape with the ability to disrupt systems that have produced abuse and exploitation for centuries.  Over the ensuing decade, workers and their organizations – largely through the efforts of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network, including CIW, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) – took up the novel approach, worked together to adapt it to new industries and new workplaces, and together forged a truly groundbreaking new paradigm for protecting human rights in corporate supply chains: Worker-driven Social Responsibility, or WSR.  Today, the WSR model has taken root on three continents and in multiple industries. 

And in the new year, hundreds of thousands of more workers can harness the power of WSR, with your support.

This year marked the two-year anniversary of a landmark agreement between Migrant Justice, a human rights organization based in Vermont’s farmworker community, and Ben & Jerry’s, the iconic ice cream brand.  The agreement established the Milk with Dignity Program, the product of years of hard work by Migrant Justice, organizing with workers on farms spread out across the state of Vermont and with consumers throughout the Northeast.  

The Milk with Dignity Program was also the product of an exciting partnership between Migrant Justice and the CIW, resulting in the first replication of the CIW’s pioneering Fair Food Program and a significant expansion of the broader WSR model.

Thelma “Lupita” Gomez, a dairy worker with Migrant Justice (bottom right), leading the way in March’s Parade for Fair Food in St. Petersburg, FL in 2015.

Hard-won success stories like the Milk with Dignity Program are the product of years of collaboration: delegations of Vermont dairy workers traveling to Florida to observe the planning for major campaign mobilizations, a worker-to-worker education session in the fields, or an annual Fair Food Standards Council audit; in-depth trainings and strategy sessions on building the program’s key mechanisms and elements; countless hours of phone calls and email exchanges to develop education curriculum or tease out the best investigation method for a particular hotline complaint.  The depth and breadth of the partnership, when fully accounted, is extraordinary. 

As a Fair Food donor, you make these crucial collaborations possible. 

The vast potential of the WSR paradigm is only now being tapped, with multiple new initiatives for expansion already underway.  Construction workers in the Twin Cities are launching their own version of the WSR model called the Building Dignity and Respect Program.  Garment workers in Lesotho recently announced a groundbreaking agreement with several leading clothes brands, including Levis and Wranglers, to fight sexual harassment and gender-based violence in Lesotho’s garment industry. Workers in the fashion industry in New York are working to establish the RESPECT Program to combat sexual harassment and dangerous working conditions for models.  

And the list goes on. Even those leading the fight to end sexual violence in the entertainment industry, Time’s Up, declared this year: “We all need to take a page from the Immokalee workers’ book across all work environments, including and starting with the entertainment industry. We can eradicate sexual harassment and violence for the next generation. All we have to do is make it bad for business.”

Help us bring this revolutionary new model to all workers who need it.  Donate today to help the WSR model expand even further in 2020!