IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Bringing its leadership position in the US food industry to the widely-acclaimed partnership for social responsibility taking root in Florida’s tomato fields, Walmart today joined with its Florida tomato suppliers and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to strengthen and expand the groundbreaking Fair Food Program.
“We are truly pleased to welcome Walmart into the Fair Food Program. No other company has the market strength and consumer reach that Walmart has,” said Cruz Salucio of the CIW. “Through this collaboration, not only will thousands of hard-working farm workers see concrete improvements to their lives, but millions of consumers will learn about the Fair Food Program and of a better way to buy fruits and vegetables grown and harvested here in the US.”
“Walmart and our suppliers are committed to strong ethical sourcing standards and every day we work to help ensure the products we sell are produced in a way that provides fair treatment for workers in our supply chain,” said Tom Leech, senior vice president of Global Food Sourcing for Walmart. “Our participation in the Fair Food Program combined with long term supply agreements with our suppliers will ensure that our customers get great products at great prices from suppliers that are working to improve the lives of their workers.“
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By joining forces with its Florida tomato suppliers and the CIW, Walmart’s involvement will strengthen and expand the existing Program’s impact on farmworkers, and demonstrate the company’s continued commitment to the Florida tomato industry as a whole. As part of the agreement, Walmart will work with CIW on the following objectives:
- Expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida to its tomato purchases from participating Florida-based growers with operations outside the state during the summer harvest season;
- Reward those Florida tomato suppliers whose operations best reflect the principles of the Fair Food Program with longer term purchase commitments;
- Work over time to expand the Fair Food Program to other crops beyond tomatoes in its produce supply chain;
- Work with its Florida tomato suppliers to build the current Fair Food Premium directly into Walmart’s cost for Florida tomatoes, with the growers continuing to pass on the Fair Food bonus to their workers as part of the established, traceable payment system that is monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council;
- Support the CIW and its participating Florida tomato suppliers to eventually achieve a higher, more sustainable bucket rate paid to workers for harvesting tomatoes. This change will streamline the financial foundation of the Fair Food Program to focus resources on raising the bar for ethical farm labor conditions beyond the Florida tomato industry.
The majority of Walmart’s Florida tomato suppliers currently participate in the Fair Food Program, and on those farms this agreement will take effect this season. The CIW will work with Walmart and its remaining suppliers over the coming season to develop the systems and practices necessary to bring them online by the beginning of the 2014 season. All of Walmart’s Florida tomato suppliers will be subject to audits by the Fair Food Standards Council and to the Fair Food Program’s worker complaint resolution mechanism.
The Fair Food Program has been recognized by the White House as “one of the most successful and innovative programs” for social responsibility today. It was recently singled out for its effectiveness by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, and in October was awarded the prestigious Roosevelt Institute Freedom from Want Medal. It combines an extensive, on-the-farm worker education program with a unique set of labor standards and rigorous enforcement mechanisms to create the most advanced program of its kind in the US agricultural industry.
United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights on the CIW/Walmart agreement:
“We are here to support the Immokalee workers and the Fair Food Program, which offers such promise for us all,” said Alexandra Guáqueta, chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. “It’s great to see the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart, join this kind of ground-breaking accountability arrangement.”
In particular, the Working Group noted the Fair Food Program’s “smart mix” of tools. “It combines law enforcement with rules agreed to by the parties which go beyond existing regulation. Together these deliver respect for human rights and better living standards for workers,” noted Ms. Guáqueta. “Workers are consulted, they lead on peer education on human rights, and existing US labor laws are upheld. Furthermore, the Program includes market incentives for growers and retailers, monitoring policies and, crucially, a robust and accessible mechanism to resolve complaints and provide remedy. Workers have no fear of retaliation if they identify problems.”
The Working Group noted that the Fair Food Program is closely aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by States at the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. “We are eager to see whether the Fair Food Program is able to leverage further change within participating businesses, and serve as a model elsewhere in the world,” added Ms. Guáqueta.