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Some amazing good news which had its start in Florida tomato fields. The news that Walmart, who is the largest grocery retailer in the world, has joined the Fair Food program and agreed to pay an additional penny per pound for the tomatoes they buy. In turn, the producers pass that penny directly along to the workers. A penny-a-pound might sound like a pittance, but it represents a 50 percent raise, the difference between making $50 and $80 a day.

The press release from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is here.

From the press release:

By joining forces with its Florida tomato suppliers and the CIW, Walmart’s involvement will strengthen and expand the existing Program’s impact on farmworkers, and demonstrate the company’s continued commitment to the Florida tomato industry as a whole.  As part of the agreement, Walmart will work with CIW on the following objectives:

  • Expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida to its tomato purchases from participating  Florida-based growers with operations outside the state during the summer harvest season;
  • Reward those Florida tomato suppliers whose operations best reflect the principles of the Fair Food Program with longer term purchase commitments;
  • Work over time to expand the Fair Food Program to other crops beyond tomatoes in its produce supply chain;
  • Work with its Florida tomato suppliers to build the current Fair Food Premium directly into Walmart’s cost for Florida tomatoes, with the growers continuing to pass on the Fair Food bonus to their workers as part of the established, traceable payment system that is monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council;
  • Support the CIW and its participating Florida tomato suppliers to eventually achieve a higher, more sustainable bucket rate paid to workers for harvesting tomatoes. This change will streamline the financial foundation of the Fair Food Program to focus resources on raising the bar for ethical farm labor conditions beyond the Florida tomato industry.

United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the CIW/Walmart agreement:

“We are here to support the Immokalee workers and the Fair Food Program, which offers such promise for us all,” said Alexandra Guáqueta, chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. “It’s great to see the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart, join this kind of ground-breaking accountability arrangement.”

In particular, the Working Group noted the Fair Food Program’s “smart mix” of tools. “It combines law enforcement with rules agreed to by the parties which go beyond existing regulation. Together these deliver respect for human rights and better living standards for workers”, noted Ms. Guáqueta. “Workers are consulted, they lead on peer education on human rights, and existing US labor laws are upheld. Furthermore, the Program includes market incentives for growers and retailers, monitoring policies and, crucially, a robust and accessible mechanism to resolve complaints and provide remedy. Workers have no fear of retaliation if they identify problems.”

To put this success in prospective: It took four years of petitions, demonstrations, and hunger strikes for the group to convince Taco Bell to finally sign in 2005, and another two years to get McDonald’s to agree.  

Originally posted to beach babe in fl on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 02:11 PM PST.

Also republished by Good News.

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