The Immokalee, Florida farmworkers who have captured international attention for their decades of successful organizing against starvation wages, debt bondage, and slavery, racked up another human rights victory on Wednesday when Ahold USA agreed to become the first major grocer in the United States to join the organization's Fair Food Program.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers hailed the development as an important win for the worker-led program that has already forced 13 of the country's biggest food retailers—from McDonald's to Whole Foods to Walmart—to enter into legally-binding agreements to respect workers' rights.
With roughly 780 stores in 14 states, Ahold is the parent company of well-known chains, including Stop & Shop. Under the Fair Food Program, the grocer will be required to meet the following conditions, as quoted from a CIW statement:
- Continue to purchase Florida tomatoes only from growers who participate in the CIW’s Fair Food Program, and expand the Fair Food Program’s standards to farms of participating growers in other states;
- Work with the CIW to ensure timely, periodic inspections and audits of the participating farms that supply Ahold USA’s companies;
- Pay a premium on tomatoes purchased from participating growers that growers will pass on to field workers;
- Provide additional financial support for the Fair Food Standards Council, CIW’s partner in monitoring compliance by participating growers with the Fair Food Program standards; and
- Support the Fair Food Program with expanded marketing and advertising, including in-store displays, online visibility and education materials for associates at Ahold USA companies.
The Fair Food program was born from more than 20 years of organizing led by majority Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti born migrant farmworkers, who have together struggled to overcome harrowing conditions of human bondage, sexual assault, and subsistence poverty.
A testament to the CIW's growing momentum, the Fair Food program includes numerous proactive provisions, like protecting workers' rights to organize and educate each other, that prompted the Washington Post to call the model "one of the great human rights success stories of our day."
Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a farmworker, organizer, and member of the CIW, told Common Dreams: "We are really happy that Ahold USA came on board. It's a very important moment in the campaign for fair food because it sends a powerful message to other corporations that haven't signed."
"We have an active campaign in the supermarket industry and are focusing our call on urging Publix and Kroger Super Market to join, as well as Wendy's," Chavez continued. "We feel that if we continue with the campaign for fair food in all the country, we are going to be seeing dramatic changes in the lives of workers, not just in Florida or the East Coast, but in building a different reality for all workers."