Milestone on the journey toward a fair food industry

Stated clerk releases statement on agreement between CIW, Aramark

April 12, 2010

LOUISVILLE

Another company has reached an agreement with a farmworkers' rights group with strong ties to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), taking the next step in the workers' fight for fair wages and working conditions.

On April 1, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Aramark Corporation released a statement agreeing to establish a supplier code of conduct with input from farmworkers. Aramark will also increase payment to workers by 1.5 cents for every pound of tomatoes picked.

CIW is a community-based worker organization in Florida that advocates for the rights of workers in that state’s tomato fields. It partners with the PC(USA)'s Campaign for Fair Food and has reached agreements with companies such as Yum! Brands, Burger King, Subway and McDonald’s. CIW works with food industry leaders with the goal of using their market power to demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.

In a statement about the agreement with Aramark, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, PC(USA)'s stated clerk, called it "a milestone" and "a sign of new life amidst death and hope amidst suffering."

Aramark has agreed to cut off purchases from growers found to be associated with abusive labor practices, including modern-day slavery.

The full statement from Parsons:

On behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I commend the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Aramark Corporation for forging an agreement that advances human rights for farmworkers and takes us a step further in creating a food system that ensures the well-being of all.

As Christians we are marking Holy Week, remembering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This agreement comes as a sign of new life amidst death and hope amidst suffering.
 
By working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Aramark is ensuring that the steps they are taking to address human rights abuses in the Florida tomato fields are effective and accountable. Building on CIW's proven fair food agreements, this agreement also guarantees increased wages for farmworkers, a zero-tolerance policy for modern-day slavery, and farmworker participation in the creation, implementation, and monitoring of the agreement.

This agreement has special importance as it comes in the wake of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange's announcement of a "new social responsibility program" that, while advertised as a step in the right direction, is not substantially different from their discredited social responsibility program SAFE. Aramark's agreement with the CIW, in contrast, advances standards, practices, and concrete improvements for human rights that are achievable only when farmworkers are full and equal partners at the table.

In particular, we commend Aramark's firm and specific commitment to cut off purchases from any growers found to be associated with abusive labor practices as an especially important aspect of the agreement if zero tolerance for modern-day slavery is to become the industry-wide standard, as it must.

I take this opportunity to encourage other retail food corporations such as Sodexo, Publix, Kroger, and Ahold to move swiftly to work with the CIW and craft agreements modeled on the standards reaffirmed in this agreement between CIW and Aramark. People of faith and conscience care deeply that the food that we serve on our tables be produced in ways that ensure human dignity. The agreement between Aramark and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers does this, and more. It ensures transparency for consumers. It ensures business for Florida growers who meet these reasonable standards. It ensures corporations can stand behind the tomatoes they sell.
 
The fair food agreement between the CIW and Aramark is a milestone on the journey toward a fair food industry and we applaud the company and the farmworkers for this significant achievement. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will continue to walk together with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and other consumers of faith and conscience until the dawn of that glorious day.

Leave a comment