Now that the weather has gotten warmer and dryer, I’ve been doing some weeding and planting in our garden. The new House of Welcome in Columbus is blessed with a big lot and some wonderful beds for vegetables and flowers. I haven’t gardened in a few years and forgot how back breaking it can be. Muscles that had lain dormant reared their sore selves. What must it be like to do this type of work hour after hour, day after day? What would ensure that at least the working conditions and wages were fair?
There is a program call the Fair Food Program (FFP) developed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker based human rights organization. They describe the FFP as “a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.”
It’s pretty simple. Retail food companies agree to pay $.01 more per pound for tomatoes (or an agreed to amount for other fruits or vegetables). That money goes into a pot to increase the wages of the workers and pay for programs/legal help for any abuses that occur to the workers. Growers agree to implement the Fair Food Code of Conduct on their farms, to cooperate with monitoring, and pass along the Fair Food Premium to their workers.
There is also a Fair Food Standards Council that monitors the development of a sustainable agricultural industry that advances the human rights of farmworkers, the long-term interests of growers, and the ethical supply chain concerns of retail food companies through the implementation of the Fair Food Program. It’s really a win-win-win-win for growers, retailers, farmworkers, and consumers.
Sadly, two big companies are missing from the list of participating retail food companies that participate in the program – Kroger and Wendy’s. Neither has agreed to purchase from Fair Food suppliers and/or pay the additional penny per pound for their tomatoes. This is why many are boycotting Wendy’s and Kroger and letting them know about it by giving a letter to the management of their local outlet. Giving up your favorite grocery or fast food store might be tough but consider how hard it is to grow and harvest the food we eat. It’s time to let Kroger’s and Wendy’s know that we want farmworkers to be treated with the dignity they deserve.
(Copies of letters you can use for Wendy’s or Kroger’s are in the Justice Updates for May 7, 2019.)