April 24, 2012
New article profiles Fair Food Standards Council, Sarasota-based watchdog organization tasked with monitoring compliance with Fair Food Code of Conduct...
Former New York State Supreme Court Judge Laura Safer Espinoza (above), Executive Director of the new third-party monitor, tells Sarasota Herald Tribune, "it's an honor and a privilege to be part of a moment in history when buyers and growers and workers come together to rectify an historic injustice."
The CIW's Fair Food Program (FFP) -- a unique collaboration among farmworkers, growers, and retail food corporations that represents the culmination of nearly two decades of farmworker and consumer organizing to improve working conditions for Florida's tomato pickers -- went into effect on over 90% of Florida's tomato farms for the first time this season. To oversee the ground-breaking social responsibility program, the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) was born, its mission "to monitor the development of a sustainable Florida tomato industry that advances both the human rights of farmworkers and the long-term interests of growers through implementation of the Fair Food Program."
This past weekend, the FFSC and its Executive Director, Judge Laura Safer Espinoza, were profiled in a great new article by the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Here's an excerpt:
"SARASOTA - Laura Safer Espinoza never envisioned a retirement in which a 40-hour work week is a luxury, not to mention a 75-mile commute to the office. On the other hand, the former New York Supreme Court justice never anticipated an opportunity like building the unprecedented Fair Food Standards Council from scratch, either.
'I feel it's an honor and a privilege to be part of a moment in history when buyers and growers and workers come together to rectify an historic injustice,' says Espinoza. 'How many times can someone say that in their lifetime?'
At 58, Espinoza is in charge of monitoring Florida's $620 million tomato industry for compliance with a landmark labor agreement in 2010. The deal, known as the Fair Food Program, guarantees farmworkers an extra penny per pound of tomatoes they harvest, as well as more humane working conditions." read more
The FFSC is the embodiment of the Fair Food Program's commitment to monitoring and enforcement of the new human rights standards established under the Fair Food Code of Conduct. That commitment -- combining regular field and farm office audits with a rigorous complaint investigation and resolution process, and backed by the CIW's on-the-farm, on-the-clock education around the code's new labor standards for tens of thousands of tomato harvesters across the state -- sets the Fair Food Program apart in the world of social responsibility, where corporate codes of conduct have proliferated but are rarely monitored and even more rarely enforced.
The implementation of the Fair Food Program is still a work in progress -- the 2011-2012 season, which is coming to a close here in just a couple of weeks, marks its pilot season -- and there is [still] a long road ahead before the changes underway can be considered stable and complete. The Fair Food Program is a very new way of doing business in an industry that has resisted change for decades, and there is much to be done before all the bad actors and old habits are weeded out and new, more modern practices are firmly rooted. But the FFSC and the CIW's worker-to-worker education program give the Fair Food Program the best chance to succeed where so many other codes of conduct and social responsibility programs have failed.
So, check out the Herald Tribune article today for a closer look at the exciting new organization (including comments from some of the growers and retail corporations supporting the Fair Food Program), and then come back again soon for a report from this past weekend's big Publix protest!