The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Fresh Market announce their Fair Food Program (FFP) partnership this week and steals the spotlight from Kroger and Whole Foods Market.
All the produce The Fresh Market now buys from Florida’s tomato growers year round will participate in the Fair Food Program that starts around 15% and will increase from 2015 onwards.
“This agreement truly takes the Fair Food Program to a new level,” said the CIW’s Guadalupe Gonzalo. “The FFP is pioneering a new form of social responsibility, one in which we as workers ourselves take a leading role in protecting our own rights in the fields.”
The Greensboro, N.C. based The Fresh Market Inc. seeks to support fair farm labor conditions and verifiable, worker-driven social responsibility in US agriculture.
However, this is not a groundbreaking labor relations partnership. In 2008 Whole Foods Market also decided that their company would support the “Penny-per-Pound” Tomato Program in Florida.
Nationwide US agricultural workers visit workplace dangers daily and they range from: child labor, animal attacks, physical assault, racism, sexual harassment,rape, worker visa exploitation, withheld pay, passport confiscation, false deportation, human trafficking, environmental pollution, pesticides and harsh labor conditions.
Last year in June 2014, Kroger turned a blind eye on the human rights conditions at their annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati. Kroger refused to allow entry of CIW and religious leaders to stand-in as annual shareholder proxies at the meeting in Cincinnati. After CIW workers weren’t allowed entry onto the premises, protests continued to simmer outside.
“Kroger has also justified non-participation by insisting that you already buy from Fair Food Program farms,” said Mother. Paula Jackson Church of Our Savior. “…it is disingenuous to claim the remarkable strides of this program as a demonstration of Kroger’s commitment to human rights in its supply chain, when Kroger has been visibly absent from the table of farm workers, growers and retailers in designing the program which you now laud, and when 90% of Florida’s farms are participating in this program. Of course you’re likely buying from those farms. ”
Also in 2014, Whole Foods Market backed plans for the non-GMO food labels in all stores. By 2018, due to the GMO labels being required in the European Union, Whole Foods Market expects all modified food product labels to be marketed as modified.
The important new grocer precedent recognizes consumer support and supports farm workers and growers who make significant investments to improve the labor conditions on the largest market-share farms.
The Fresh Market’s commitment to make an annual financial contribution to support the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) organization oversees compliance with the Fair Food Program’s unique human rights standards.
“But we can’t do this alone,” Gonzalo. “The FFP is a day-to-day, careful partnership with farm growers and buyers alike aimed at ensuring that the workplace environment in Florida’s fields is second to none. We have achieved that goal.” Gonzalo. “— we have laid the groundwork to sustain and scale up those gains well into the future.”
FFSC includes investigates and resolves workers’ complaints, auditing farms for compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct and enforces the FFP’s standards.
FFSC’s expertise continues as a gold standard for social responsibility in US agriculture by longtime labor and human rights observers as “the best workplace monitoring program in the US” and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day.”
“We are pleased to enter into this partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and to be a part of the Fair Food Program,” said Lee Arthur, The Fresh Market’s merchandising vice president – produce, floral and gift center. “We continuously look for ways to source the best products, and being a part of the FFP helps us to know we are sourcing from growers whose practices are fair and socially responsible. This allows us to provide our customers with food they can feel good about purchasing and enjoy sharing with friends and family.”