The purchase of agriculture for our consumer marketplace usually results in the exploitation of farmworkers, usually located in areas that are out of mind and out of sight to many of the Americans who are the purchasers of these foods, thus an essential actor in this continuous cycle of human exploitation. The main driver of this cycle are companies that supply many of the supermarkets and restaurants in the United States. The leverage of these companies power allows them to demand these ever-lower prices, which again has resulted, in the constant decrease of farmworker wages.
It is known that tomato pickers earn a measly 45 cents per 32 lb. bucket of tomatoes, adding up to picking 2.5 tons of tomatoes daily to reach minimum wages (CIW, 2012). Many define this practice as modern day slavery as many times these farmworkers are held and worked against their will. Federal Civil Rights officials have prosecuted five slavery operations over 1,000 workers in Florida’s fields since 1997 (CIW, 2012). The Fair Food Program veers away from the conventional marketplace of agriculture, and dedicates their organization to putting a fair amount of money into these farmworkers pockets.
This worker driven and consumer powered approach not only allows these farmworkers to receive livable wages but also allows them to receive information that is essential in them understanding their rights under the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which will prevent these workers from being undermined and exploited anymore (FFP, 2017). This program, teamed up with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW); a humans right group based in Florida; had gotten many giant restaurant companies such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC and giant supermarket corporations such as Walmart, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes to forge partnerships under these Fair Food Provisions.
Under these provisions, these corporations must pay a small premium, this premium can be seen as a companies social responsibility. This premium is of a small amount to these multinational companies but these premiums are carefully monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council to assure this money is properly distributed to the farmworkers. Since it’s existence, the Fair Food Program has added $15 million to participating growers payrolls (FFP, 2017).
Since the inception of the Fair Food Program in 2011, there has been nearly $20 million paid in fair food premiums, 135,000 workers have received “know your rights” materials, 12,000 workers have been formally interviewed for jobs, and 33,000 workers have been educated by CIW, face to face (FFP, 2017). There have also been many personal testimonies that reflect a positive social change on the participating farms.
One reads, “more important than the money, which I need, was the feeling of dignity when my labor– the buckets I harvested– recognized”. Another one reads, “In the past, we had to wake our son up at 4 a.m. to get him to a home daycare where he stayed in school until the daycare provider took him to school. This routine has affected the child’s health. Now, for the first time in the 10 years of my sons life, my wife and I are able to eat breakfast with him and walk him to school.” (FFP, 2017).
This organization is fairly new, especially when it is put in comparison to the field that is is combating. This exploitation of farmworkers has dragged on through the history of modern agricultural practices, and has most recently been combatted by the Fair Food Organization. For being around for almost seven years and getting the certain multinational companies that it has to submit to humane wages, proper education of staff, and human empowerment, I would say this movement has only just gotten started and is moving with great momentum.