Walmart isn't exactly known for its championing of fair labor practices. But, perhaps in an effort to improve its reputation in that arena, last week the company signed on to the Coalition of Immokalee Worker's (CIW) Fair Food Program, which seeks to protect farm workers from exploitation.
While the Fair Food Program agreement signed by Walmart executives mainly covers tomato farm workers in Florida, Walmart agreed to work with the CIW to expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida. It's a huge step forward for the farm worker's rights movement to have the world's largest retailer sign on to help end exploitation and provide recourse for abused workers.
Cruz Salucio of the CIW said in a statement:
"We are truly pleased to welcome Walmart into the Fair Food Program. No other company has the market strength and consumer reach that Walmart has. Through this collaboration, not only will thousands of hard-working farm workers see concrete improvements to their lives, but millions of consumers will learn about the Fair Food Program and of a better way to buy fruits and vegetables grown and harvested here in the US."
The Fair Food Program aims to raise wages for farm workers, institute a code of conduct that includes zero tolerance for forced labor and sexual assault, institute a worker-triggered complaint resolution mechanism, provide health and safety committees on farms, and institute ongoing auditing of farms to insure compliance with these goals.
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Walmart's agreement says that the company will work to expand the Fair Food Program, that it will reward those suppliers whose operations best reflect the principles of the Fair Food Program with longer term purchase commitments, and that it will work in various ways to raise the wages of Florida tomato workers.
Most importantly, for workers beyond Florida, the agreement says that Walmart will "work over time to expand the Fair Food Program to other crops beyond tomatoes in its produce supply chain." This means that the conditions of farm workers everywhere in the U.S. could eventually benefit from this agreement.