Walmart joins ‘Fair Food Program’

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, signed an historic agreement last week with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to join the the latter’s Fair Food Program.

Walmart, Immokalee Workers agreement

From left, Walmart representatives John Amaya, Tom Leech and Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Lucas Benitez look on as the coalition’s Gerardo Reyes Chavez signs historic Fair Food Program agreement at a Lipman Produce farm near Immokalee, Fla.

At a ceremony held under a watermelon packing shed on a tomato farm outside of Immokalee, Walmart committed to support CIW’s widely acclaimed social responsibility program that is bringing measurable change to the persons who harvest tomatoes for Florida’s $650 million tomato industry.

As part of the agreement, Walmart will work with CIW to expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida and into “other crops beyond tomatoes in its produce supply chain.”

Alexandra Guáqueta, chair of the U.N. Working Group on Business & Human Rights, said she attended the signing ceremony “to support the Immokalee workers and the Fair Food Program, which offers such promise for us all.”

‘Smart mix’

Guáqueta conveyed a statement on behalf of the Working Group that praised the Fair Food Program for its “smart mix” of monitoring and enforcement tools, including “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,” Guáqueta said, adding, “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.”

Under the agreement with Walmart, its Florida tomato suppliers will be required to increase pay while protecting workers from forced labor and sexual assault.

Suppliers in compliance are designated as “Participating Grower.” If the suppliers do not comply, they will lose the designation and won’t be able to sell their tomatoes to Walmart and other participating resellers.

Strengthens program

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers said Walmart signing on “strengthens its Fair Food Program. The commitment from corporate buyers is to pay an additional penny per pound of tomatoes that gets passed on to workers.

A human rights code of conduct that deals with safety, dispute resolution and other issues is also part of the commitment.

On its part, Walmart said it will reward with longer-term purchase agreements Florida tomato suppliers whose operations best reflect the principles of the Fair Food Program.

Editor's note: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of corporate social responsibility, community organizing and sustainable food. CIW is also a leader in the growing movement to end human trafficking due to its work to combat modern-day slavery and other labor abuses common in agriculture.

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