The Fair Food Program

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program is 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.

The Program has been called “the best workplace-monitoring program” in the US in the New York Times, and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” in the Washington Post, and has won widespread recognition for its unique effectiveness from a broad spectrum of human rights observers, from the United Nations to the White House.

Worker Driven

The Fair Food Program is a human rights program that is designed, monitored, and enforced by the very workers whose rights it is intended to protect.

From extreme poverty to sexual harassment and even modern-day slavery, farmworkers have faced abuses at work for as long as anyone can remember. Because workers are the only actors in the supply chain with a vital and abiding interest in seeing that their rights are effectively monitored and enforced, they have, in the case of the Fair Food Program, constructed a system that actually works.

In fact, the Fair Food Program is a truly new form of human rights program that can be called Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR).  Thanks to the workers’ leading role in shaping its design, the Fair Food Program’s structure, function and results stand in stark contrast to the traditional approach of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  In short, in the Fair Food Program, workers are not just at the table, they are at the head of the table.

Consumer Powered

In 2001, farmworkers in Immokalee (FL) launched an ambitious new Campaign for Fair Food to educate consumers on the labor conditions behind the food they eat.

Through the campaign, farmworkers and consumers have built an alliance that encourages retail food companies to use their enormous purchasing power to require higher labor standards for farmworkers who harvest the produce they buy. Over the next decade, this new alliance won Fair Food Agreements with a dozen of the world’s largest food companies.

By requiring retail food companies to pay a small premium, the Fair Food Program helps reverse decades of worsening farmworker poverty. Since its inception in 2011, the Program has added $15 million to Florida tomato farms’ payrolls. By requiring Participating Buyers to only purchase tomatoes from growers who comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, the Fair Food Program harnesses retailers’ immense purchasing power to enforce the most progressive labor standards in US agriculture today.

Fair Food Certified

The Fair Food Standards Council is the only dedicated third-party monitoring organization of its kind in agriculture in the United States of America.

The clearest reflection of the Fair Food Program’s significant investment of resources in monitoring farms’ compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct is the development of the Fair Food Standards Council. The FFSC staffs a 24-hour worker complaint hotline, investigates and resolves worker complaints, and carries out comprehensive audits on participating farms.

Areas of non-compliance and potential risk are then addressed through verifiable corrective action measures, which steadily move farms towards industry-wide best practices. Through the complaint process and regular farm audits, the FFSC is able to gather a specialized and continuously growing information base concerning bad actors and practices targeted for reform that stands alone in the auditing field. This deep specialization makes the FFSC’s work unique for its effectiveness.