Change is Underway: The Fair Food Code of Conduct

Today, for the first time, there is hope for real, durable respect for human rights in Florida's fields thanks to the changes we have won together.

Indeed, because of the combined efforts of thousands of workers from Immokalee, tens of thousands of Fair Food activists across the country, several of the state's largest tomato growers, and nine multi-billion dollar food industry leaders, we stand today on the threshold of an unprecedented transformation in agricultural labor conditions in Florida.

Last November, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement to extend the CIW's Fair Food principles – including a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process – to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields this season. These changes impact an estimated 33,000 workers and include:

  • Worker Education: The CIW will educate farmworkers on the Fair Food Code of Conduct, their new rights in the fields, and how to report problems that arise. These trainings take place at the company, as part of the work day, so that company support for the new Code is a clear part of the message.

  • Pay Increase: Growers will pass on the Fair Food Premium (penny-per-pound) from participating major buyers of tomatoes (Subway, McDonald's, Whole Foods, etc.) to farmworkers in their paychecks. The penny-per-pound bonus is reflected as a line item in the paycheck that workers can see. Growers will be audited to verify correct distribution of the wage increase.

  • Clocking-in: The Code of Conduct requires a reliable mechanism to keep track of farmworkers' hours and requires payment of workers for all the hours they are on the job. In the past, farmworkers normally would get up at around 5 am to be picked up for work at 6 am, only to spend several hours waiting in the fields without pay. Not only does that enable workers to get sufficient sleep, but parents are now able to be with their children and get them ready for school.
  • No More Over-filling of Buckets: Until now, it was standard practice for workers to have to overfill their buckets-- which meant upwards of 10% of each worker's labor was going unpaid. Now, farmworkers need only fill the bucket to the top in order for the bucket to be paid.

  • Report Abuses without Fear: Farmworkers now have the right to report abuses or violations of the Code of Conduct -- to the CIW, to a third-party, or to the farm itself -- confidentially and without fear of retaliation from their bosses. This includes instances of sexual harassment, violence, wage theft, and discrimination. Abuses reported by workers trigger an investigation and enforcement process to fix the problem and hold violators accountable.

These changes -- and more, including shade in the fields and nascent health and safety committees -- constitute the first real, tangible labor reforms in the modern history of Florida agriculture. And with the support of the 9 major corporations creating real market consequences for companies that violate these rights, they represent a bridge between a history of shameful farm labor exploitation and a future of more modern, more humane working conditions in Florida's fields.

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