“When farmworkers have the opportunity to transform their work culture on their own terms, they seize it…”

One down, nine to go! First day of this year’s Sustainer Drive was a smash hit, with 14 new Sustainers signing up… let’s keep up the momentum!

Together, we can build a future without sexual violence for farmworkers from Florida to California.

Nearly a decade before the #MeToo movement exploded onto the scene and awakened the nation to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, farmworkers in Immokalee launched the Fair Food Program and began to make a tangible impact on this age-old problem.  On Day 1 of the FFP, farmworkers established three “Zero Tolerance” violations in the Fair Food Code of Conduct, abuses that triggered automatic suspension from the program: forced labor, child labor, and sexual assault.  While the world was waking up, farmworker women and men were busy planting seeds for a workplace without violence.  And backed by the purchasing power of some of the world’s largest corporations, the Fair Food Program gradually eliminated sexual assault in the fields under its protections, and greatly reduced the frequency of sexual harassment — guaranteeing the rights of women and men to work free of sexual violence in an industry where fully 80% of women had previously reported experiencing sexual harassment at work.

The power of the Fair Food Program has been nothing short of transformative.  In the past, a crew leader who groped members of his crew, or dragged women to the edge of the fields to assault them, could work for years without fear of consequences, while those who had the courage to report abuse would face swift and certain retaliation.  Now, with the Fair Food Program, there are finally real protections in place, and the shoe is squarely on the other foot.  Today, farm bosses who dare sexually harass their workers are the ones who can be certain of swift consequences, while those who lodge complaints with the FFP can count on the program’s proven protections from retaliation. 

In the next ten years, we can build a future in which no farmworker has to check her dignity at the farm gate.  You can be a part of this future as a Fair Food Sustainer.  Click here to sign up as one of today’s 10 new Sustainers!

These are not gains that we can take for granted.

In the wake of the wave of #MeToo revelations in 2018, there was hope that the long nightmare of sexual violence at work might finally be over.  Unfortunately, the hoped-for justice of that heady moment was unequally distributed.  Just last year, Anna Park, the EEOC’s L.A. District Regional Attorney, admitted that sexual harassment complaints from workers in agriculture, forestry, and fishing had actually dropped since the #MeToo movement began.  In written testimony to the EEOC’s harassment task force, Park said that without accessible complaint mechanisms, real accountability, and effective monitoring, women in vulnerable low-wage sectors will continue to face inordinate risk. 

But in the Fair Food Program, a different vision of equal justice has come to life since 2011.  The CIW’s own Lupe Gonzalo and Nely Rodriguez describe what this change has looked like, as told by journalist and peerless Fair Food scholar Vera Chang:

“And yet, [Nely] Rodríguez and others working with the Fair Food Program have shown that the opposite is possible: When farmworkers have the opportunity to transform their work culture on their own terms, they seize it. CIW farmworkers have devised a unique mix of education, monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms that prevent—not just remedy—sexual violence at work.

… “It’s a really beautiful experience,” Lupe Gonzalo told me about participating as a worker and now an educator for the FFP. Gonzalo, a former coffee farmworker from Guatemala, came to the U.S. when she turned 20 to work in blueberry, tobacco, and tomato fields. But she said that she was afflicted by all the abuses that women suffer, especially as one of just a few women working in the fields at that time.

Just as the FFP was beginning, Gonzalo attended a CIW education session that awakened her desire to speak out against violence she’s experienced and witnessed. “That was the first time that I’d ever heard anything about workers having rights,” she recalled. “After so many years, it was hard to believe.” Gonzalo told said she used to be shy and didn’t talk much. Rodríguez said the same thing about herself, too. Now both speak before thousands of people at a time.”

In the 10 years since the Program’s inception, we have shown that it is, in fact, possible to uproot sexual violence in the fields,  change a generations-0ld culture of abuse, and create powerful systems of accountability that keep people safe.  From our home state of Florida, we have expanded the Fair Food Program to seven new states.  From tomatoes, we went on to peppers and other vegetables, strawberries, and fresh-cut flowers. Imagine where we’ll be in the next 10 years – and then, help us build it!

Join the Fair Food Sustainer Program today!