The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), is a membership-led farmworker labor organization based in Immokalee, Florida. According to the CIW website, "Members of CIW are mostly Latino, Haitian and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida." First established in 1993, CIW launched the Campaign for Fair Food in 2001 to "improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers by calling on major buyers of tomatoes to pay a premium of one penny more per pound for their tomatoes, ensure that this penny is passed down directly to farmworkers, and work together with the CIW to establish and implement a code of conduct in their supply chains." CIW now represents nearly 4,000 members.
The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is a private, voluntary, member-driven agricultural cooperative comprising Florida tomato growers.According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida supplies over 90 percent of the tomatoes consumed by Americans from October to May. Tomato harvesters are paid by the piece, earning an average of 40 - 50 cents per 32 lbs of tomatoes picked.
In November 2011, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement "to extend the CIW's Fair Food principles to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields." The agreement includes a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process.
The Agreement – which concerns the labor conditions of over 30,000 tomato workers in Florida – came after fifteen years of often tempestuous relations between the Coalition and the Growers, and follows a number of 'Fair Food Agreements' between the Coalition and the corporate food industry.The Agreement commits the growers to pass on to their workers a 'Fair Food Premium' paid for Florida tomatoes purchased by major food corporations (incl. McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum Brands, Subway, Compass, Bon Appetite, Sodexo, Aramark, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s) with which the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has ‘Fair Food Agreements’.
According to press release titled "Historic Breakthrough in Florida's Tomato Fields": The collaboration will unfold in a two-step process. For this season (2010-2011), participating FTGE members (see the complete list at the end of this release) have agreed to pass through the penny-per-pound from participating purchasers and cooperate with a financial audit of the penny-per-pound funds. They have also adopted the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which will be fully implemented by the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. Also during the current season, FTGE member growers Six L's and Pacific Tomato Growers (who independently signed agreements with the CIW earlier this season) will join with the CIW in a Working Group charged with developing and evaluating the protocols and systems necessary to implement the Fair Food Code of Conduct. The Working Group will develop systems that can be applied on the industry level. During this first season, the code will be fully in effect, and monitored, only on farms that are part of the Working Group. In the second step, beginning with the 2011-2012 season, the protocols and systems developed and tested during the first season by the Working Group will be shared with the other member farms, and the Code of Conduct will become fully effective on all participating farms.
3. Historic Breakthrough in Florida's Tomato Fields. http://www.ciw-online.org/FTGE_CIW_joint_release.html
Steve Hitov (General Counsel of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers)
Date: 1st March 2012
Hello Steve, how long have you been working for CIW?
For 17 years.
And during this time, were you involved in all of the negotiations that culminated in the most recent agreement, which includes the Fair Food Code of Conduct?
Yes, I was part of every single negotiation between the Coalition and the Buyers. After earlier negotiations, which led to 'Fair Food Agreements' with all of the major food corporations, we now have reached agreement with the Growers as well. As a result, since the last picking season started (November 2011), virtually all tomato growers in Florida have agreed to follow the Fair Food Code of Conduct, and to apply its Complaint Resolution Mechanism.
To read the full interview with Steve Hitov, click here.