Farmworkers, CIW and FCWA push for better pay and work

Miami Times staff report | 5/22/2014, 9 a.m.

Farmworkers and members of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, and the internationally-recognized Coalition of Immokalee Workers banded together outside a Publix store in Coral Gables to urge the supermarket to join the Fair Food Program (FFP) – a social responsibility program that ensures a humane work environment and increased pay for Florida tomato workers.

Publix Supermarkets is not a member of the program, but instead supports a handful of Florida growers where workers are denied access to the program’s higher standards and "penny-per-pound" bonus. 

The FFP is an historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and twelve multibillion dollar tomato retailers, among them McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Publix’s major competitor, Walmart. By committing to the FFP, participating retailers demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers, agree to purchase exclusively from those who meet these higher standards, and pay a “penny-per-pound” premium which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers. 

The FFP has won praise from the White House to President Jimmy Carter for its unique success in addressing decades-old farm labor abuses at the heart of the nation’s trillion-dollar food industry.

“Publix profits from the sweat of those of us who work in the fields. We deserve respect and we deserve a fair wage,” wrote farmworker mothers and members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Women’s Groupy. “Now is the time to join the Fair Food Program to protect the rights of workers and ensure a fair wage, with the penny per pound that 12 other corporations are already paying. What are you waiting for, Publix?”

The FFP was heralded in the Washington Post as “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” and in a White House report concerning global efforts to combat human trafficking as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” to that end. Since 2011, participating buyers have paid out more than $11 million through the Fair Food Program, constituting the first pay increase for workers in over 30 years.