For two days in February I joined a group of Chartwells interns from around the country in Immokalee, Florida to visit the headquarters of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers was organized by a set of Florida tomato laborers during the 90’s. The Coalition continues to fight to this day to ensure the fair treatment and compensation of tomato labors in Florida. The CIW created a certification called “fair food”, which farms can only gain if they meet the regulatory standards set by the CIW. Compass, along with multiple other large companies like Aramark, Sodexo, Walmart, Whole foods, Trader Joe's, Chipotle, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway have signed on to purchase only tomatoes grown in the U.S. and only fair food tomatoes, if they purchase from Florida. Since Florida produces upwards of 80% of all Winter tomatoes in the U.S., many of these companies will automatically have to purchase from a fair food farm. The movement that the Coalition continues to build is astounding. The leaders of CIW use their platform to continue to pressure large companies, like Wendy’s and Public’s, to sign on to the agreement, and to expand the fair food program to include more farms and a larger variety of crops, including those located in other states. They also continue to inform other laborers on how to successfully organize for their rights. For example, a set of dairy workers in Vermont won a right’s campaign, known as Milk With Dignity, based off of the CIW’s campaign model.
Through the fair food program, laborers gain around a penny more per pound of tomatoes they collect, to increase their wages. Laborers also have access to a 24 hour hotline that always answers the call to report complaints. Every complaint is reviewed and a resolved by the Fair Foods Standards Council (FFSC). The third party agricultural monitoring system is the only one in operation in the entire of the U.S.. Additionally, The FFSC completes randomized, intensive audits to ensure farms meet the fair food standards. Any farm will lose its status as a fair food farm if they refuse to fire farm supervisors who are perpetrators of sexual or physical assault, or use slave labor. The CIW is comprised of an dedicated team that could change the entire nature of the agriculture and food industry. I am very thankful that I had opportunity to go meet with the laborers and organizers, and believe that everyone who cares about farm laborers rights should support the CIW in the capacity that they can. The trip strengthened my devotion to improving Northwestern’s sourcing. It was great to see how the Northwestern sustainability team’s actions directly support the liberation efforts of farm workers.
There are many ways to support the CIW including, boycotting Wendy’s and Public’s, joining a protest near you, or donating to the organization’s efforts. To help, or to become more informed, check out their website: https://ciw-online.org/
Also, look out for Compass Farm Worker’s Awareness Week events, which will take place throughout the first week of April!