Health is a human right for essential workers, now more than ever!

For International Human Rights Day, help us protect the fundamental rights of essential workers by supporting the Fair Food Program!

On this day, seventy-two years ago, with the scars of war and genocide still painfully raw in their minds, representatives of fifty-eight countries from around the globe gathered in Paris at the United Nations General Assembly to formally adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   The Declaration they proclaimed that day is a sweeping document that set out, for the first time, the fundamental human rights to be protected across the community of nations — without exception, and regardless of cultural, economic, or political differences — with the goal that never again would the violence and atrocities that left tens of millions of soldiers and civilians dead in the wake of World War II be repeated in the modern, post-war world. 

The process of hammering out an inclusive list of fundamental human rights to be applied globally required over two years of intense deliberation, but agreeing on and naming those rights was only the beginning of the battle to come.  Building a world in which those rights would be respected universally remains a struggle to this day.  Speaking to that challenge, Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the principal authors and advocates of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said:

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Ms. Roosevelt spent years working tirelessly for the Universal Declaration to be written and ratified, and yet she recognized, with a clear-eyed pragmatism, that the groundbreaking document would be little more than empty words on paper without concerted and sustained action from each and every one of us to uphold its great promise.

Now, more than seven decades later, the world has been plunged into an extraordinary public health crisis that puts one of the most essential human rights named in the Universal Declaration – the right to health – to the test, especially for the world’s most vulnerable communities.

This International Human Rights Day, you can join the movement to protect the basic human rights of farmworkers by supporting the Fair Food Program.

Since the beginning of industrial-scale agriculture in the United States, farm labor has been among the most dangerous jobs in the country, and farmworkers among the least protected workers.  The women and men who harvest our food face countless risks when they head into work every morning to put food on our tables: extreme heat and humidity from dawn to dusk, exposure to deadly pesticides, the life-and-death risk of lightning strikes, even bus and truck accidents in travel to and from the fields.  

That’s why health and safety protections are an essential right for workers in the fields under the Fair Food Program. Indeed, during the in-person, on-the-farm education sessions conducted by CIW staff, our educators often begin with these words:  “Through the protections of the Fair Food Program, we want to ensure that when you return home to your family each day, you are just as whole and healthy as when you left that morning.”  The FFP’s commitment to protecting workers’ health and safety has only become more urgent during the COVID-19 crisis.

You can help us expand the life-saving protections of the Fair Food Program to more workers, more industries, and more “small places, close to home,” by donating today.

From Day 1 of the pandemic, the unique tools of the Fair Food Program – the decade-long partnership with leading Florida growers, worker-to-worker education, wall-to-wall monitoring, 24/7 complaint resolution process, and the powerful hammer of market enforcement – proved essential to keeping workers safe as infection rates, and the death toll, began to rise.  The complaint line provided a constant stream of constructive communication among workers on the ground, the Fair Food Program, and Participating Growers, allowing us to swiftly identify potential areas of concern and implement best practices on participating farms – practices that kept coronavirus infection rates low for workers under the FFP compared to local communities throughout the spring and summer months.

And we didn’t stop there.  This fall harvest season, we developed and launched the first set of mandatory, privately enforceable standards to protect farmworkers from COVID-19 in agriculture through the Fair Food Program. These standards – including public health education for both supervisors and workers, free masks and personal sanitation resources for all workers, isolation and testing for symptomatic employees, and a guarantee that any worker who must quarantine will not lose their job as a result – are enforced by all of the longstanding, proven mechanisms of the Fair Food Program, right alongside the right to work free of sexual violence and modern-day slavery.  And in those states where the law goes any further, the FFP carries the power to enforce those additional legal protections too.

Among the many, many hard lessons of 2020, one stands out above them all here in Immokalee: Protecting the health and wellbeing of farmworkers – of all essential workers, whether they work in hospitals, meatpacking plants, the public service sector or the fields – is not optional.  In the words of Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” Never has that been more true than today, when essential workers are braving a deadly virus to put food on our tables and provide vital health, education, and security for the rest of us.

Help us protect the fundamental human right of health for essential workers this season, and donate to the Fair Food Program.