Saturday, April 05, 2014

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Extreme Makeover: Florida tomato industry edition…
Before: The CIW’s Modern-Day Slavery Museum visits Washington, DC in June of 2010
After: CIW members celebrate new rights under Fair Food Program in Lakeland in March of 2013
In the space of just a few years, the CIW’s Fair Food Program has transformed the Florida tomato industry and created a “model” for the protection of human rights in global supply chains “elsewhere in the world.”
How could something so good for business make the US Chamber of Commerce so mad?  A reflection in two parts…
In January of this year, the CIW signed its twelfth Fair Food agreement with a multi-billion dollar food industry leader, this time with the multi-billion-dollar-est of them all, Walmart.
Walmart representatives John Amaya (left), Tom Leech (center) and CIW’s Lucas Benitez, Gerardo Reyes Chavez, and Nely Rodriguez (far right) sign historic agreement at a Lipman Produce
farm outside of Immokalee.
The agreement symbolized the almost unimaginable transformation that has taken place in the Florida tomato industry over the past several years as a result of the Fair Food Program on several levels:
  • on the retailer level, Walmart was the first major retailer to sign a Fair Food Agreement not as the result of a public campaign of any kind, but thanks, rather, to the demonstrated success of the Fair Food Program at eliminating longstanding human rights violations in the Florida tomato industry;
  • on the grower level, the fact that the agreement was signed at a packing shed on a local tomato farm was a compelling reflection of the powerful new partnership that has taken root and begun to flourish under the Fair Food Program;
  • on the worker level, the CIW’s place at the table in the Florida tomato industry, as an equal voice in the decisions that affect workers in the fields, was cemented with that twelfth agreement;
  • on the consumer level, Florida tomato purchases can now be made with full confidence that the fruit was grown and harvested under the highest, most rigorously monitored and enforced human rights standards in the nation.
That confidence was underscored by the participation at the Walmart signing ceremony of the Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Alexandra Guaqueta.  In a statement on behalf of the UN Working Group, the Chairperson explained that she was attending the ceremony “to support the Immokalee workers and the Fair Food Program, which offers such promise for us all.”  She went on to praise the Program’s “smart mix” of monitoring and enforcement tools, including “market incentives for growers and retailers, monitoring policies and, crucially, a robust and accessible mechanism to resolve complaints and provide remedy.”  She concluded her remarks, “We are eager to see whether the Fair Food Program is able to leverage further change within participating businesses, and serve as a model elsewhere in the world.”
In light of this unprecedented progress to date — and of the promise of still much more to come in the months and years ahead as the Program prepares to expand outside of Florida and to crops beyond tomatoes — why in the world has the US Chamber of Commerce suddenly decided to attack the CIW and the Fair Food Program?...
For more about the forthcoming series on the Florida tomato industry's extreme makeover,
visit the
CIW website.

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