Founded in 2011, the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) oversees implementation of the Fair Food Program, a unique farmworker- and consumer-driven initiative consisting of:
- A wage increase supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchasers of Florida tomatoes; and
- Human-rights-based Code of Conduct, applicable throughout the Florida tomato industry.
The price premium and the Code of Conduct, which were developed by tomato workers, growers, and corporate buyers, form the foundation for a new model of social accountability.
The Fair Food Program emerged from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) successful Campaign for Fair Food, a campaign to affirm the human rights of tomato workers and improve the conditions under which they labor. In 2015, the FFP expanded to the summer operations of Florida-based growers in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey as well as to pepper and strawberry farms in Florida.
Comprehensive, Verifiable and Sustainable Change
The high degree of consolidation in the food industry today means that multi-billion dollar brands on the retail end of the industry are able to leverage their volume purchasing power to demand ever-lower prices, which has resulted in downward pressure on farmworker wages. The Fair Food Program reverses that process, enlisting the resources of participating retail food giants to improve farmworker wages and harnessing their demand to reward growers who respect their workers’ rights.
The Fair Food Program provides an opportunity for those corporations to bring their own considerable resources to the table – their funds and market influence – to help forge a structural, sustainable solution to a human rights crisis that has persisted on U.S. soil for far too long. In the process, the Fair Food Program is building the foundation for a stronger Florida tomato industry that can differentiate its product in produce aisles and restaurants on the basis of a credible claim to social responsibility and so better weather the challenges of an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Under the Fair Food Program, Participating Growers have agreed to:
- A wage increase supported by the “penny per pound” price premium Participating Buyers pay for their tomatoes;
- Compliance with the human rights-based Code of Conduct, including zero tolerance for forced labor, child labor and sexual assault;
- Worker-to-worker education sessions conducted by the CIW on the farms and on company time to insure workers understand their new rights and responsibilities;
- A worker-triggered complaint resolution mechanism leading to complaint investigation, corrective action plans, and, if necessary, suspension of a farm’s Participating Grower status, and thereby its ability to sell to Participating Buyers;
- Health and safety committees on every farm to give workers a structured voice in the shape of their work environment;
- Specific and concrete changes in harvesting operations to improve workers’ wages and working conditions, including an end to the age-old practice of forced overfilling of picking buckets (a practice which effectively denied workers pay for up to 10% of the tomatoes harvested), the provision of shade in the fields, and the use of time clocks to record and count all compensable hours accurately; and
- Ongoing auditing of the farms by the Fair Food Standards Council to insure compliance with each element of the program.
The FFSC is based in Sarasota, Florida, and has responsibility for implementing, monitoring, and enforcing the Fair Food Program.
Judge Laura Safer Espinoza is Executive Director of the FFSC.