Why It Matters (c/o CIW):
Florida farmworkers have long faced brutal conditions in the fields, including sub-poverty wages, widespread labor rights violations, and even modern-day slavery. Today, however, there is hope on the horizon, thanks to the efforts of farmworkers, Fair Food activists, Florida tomato growers, and nine food industry leaders (including Ahold USA competitor Whole Foods) who have joined in support of the CIW's Fair Food principles, including a penny-per-pound piece rate wage increase, a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process.
Last November, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) signed an agreement to extend these principles to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields. And though the implementation of that agreement is being phased in gradually over the course of this season and the next, many real, concrete changes have already taken root on some of the state's largest farms.
Ahold USA, however, is refusing to do its part, and if they have their way, the unprecedented farm labor transformation promised by the CIW's landmark agreement with the FTGE would be significantly diminished. That's because the solution to farm labor exploitation and abuse contained in the Fair Food principles depends on the participation of all the major purchasers of Florida tomatoes. Each buyer must contribute its fair share – its penny-per-pound – for the pay raise to reach its full potential. Each buyer must commit to direct its purchases to those growers complying with the code of conduct – and away from those who don't – for working conditions to get better and stay better. In the words of the FTGE's Reggie Brown, "Everybody in the system has to be invested for it to work."