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Exploited Labor: A Megaphone for Worker Voice

When you walk down the grocery aisle, you’re bound to see any number of stickers and labels – more every passing year – proclaiming the sustainability, fairness, and transparency of a product.

Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions farmworkers in Immokalee get is this:  What’s different about the Fair Food label, anyway?  What makes the Fair Food Program stand out in the field of social responsibility?

Our answer is simple.  The Fair Food Program was built on two key pillars: The leadership of farmworkers, from the design of the program to its monitoring in the fields, and the market-backed enforcement of its human rights standards.  Today we want to talk about the second of those two pillars, and specifically about the group responsible for the FFP’s best-in-class, around-the-clock enforcement, the Fair Food Standards Council, which launched simultaneously with the FFP in 2011. 

The Fair Food Program doesn’t hit pause when the sun goes down, or Friday close of business. We’re there when farmworkers need us, 24/7. Sign up as a Fair Food Sustainer right now to help us keep the lines open.

The FFSC is the behind-the-scenes powerhouse of the Fair Food Program. They ensure that the vision of a more modern, more human agricultural industry designed by farmworkers is made real through on-farm audits and worker education, deep-dive reviews of payroll and other management records, corrective action plans and collaboration with growers, and a 24/7 trilingual hotline for workers – as the Program’s frontline monitors – to call when they need to report a problem.

And the powerhouse behind the powerhouse? The people.

The small but mighty staff of the Council are experts in the agricultural landscape. They know the ins and outs of the farms and the industry — from the location, size, and crop of every tucked-away farm field across the vast landscape under their protection, to the most common issues workers face at each farm and even the nicknames of countless crewleaders and farm bosses under their watch — and of course, they know the Fair Food Code of Conduct word for word and how to uncover even subtle infractions. The women and men of the FFSC, in their role as independent human rights monitors, are deeply invested in long-lasting, systemic transformation. 

Here’s what one FFSC staff member said about why his work matters: 

“One of the most gratifying outcomes that I encounter in my work writing reports with the FFSC is when we can document real change from one report to the next – when there’s an issue on a farm that a worker brings forward, and it gets resolved, and the next report shows an improvement in the work environment. 

The fact that we can actually verify with our own eyes and ears that we’re getting results at the farm level feels very unique to the Fair Food Program.  The focus on worker voice and the partnership with CIW  is one of the things that differentiates it from my previous experience in the nonprofit world:  here we’re not just “serving” vulnerable people, we’re helping them amplify their own voices in the workplace and collaborating with growers to make lasting change."