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Fighting for Workers' Rights with Fair Food

Fighting for Workers’ Rights with Fair Food

Tomatoes Make Headlines

This August we highlight tomatoes as our Superfood of the Month. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, low in calories (only about 30 per cup), and star in many delicious summer dishes. Over the years though, tomatoes’ nutritional benefits aren’t necessarily what has earned their publicity. In the 1800s, the debate over whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Spoiler alert: tomatoes are botanically a fruit, but legally a vegetable.

But around Morrison Healthcare and Compass Group, there’s another issue surrounding tomatoes, more specifically tomato farmers that has forever changed the food industry and our own hearts: the issue of modern day slavery and the fight for fair food.

For decades, farm work has been one of the lowest paying jobs in the country. Ninety percent of winter tomatoes are grown in Florida where historically tomato farmers have been subject to wage theft, sexual violence, and forced labor. There is, however, hope. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and large retailers like Morrison and Compass Group are committed to rewriting history through initiatives like the Fair Food Program (FFP).

A Groundbreaking Agreement – the Fair Food Program

In 2009, Compass Group and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) signed the groundbreaking Fair Food Program agreement. Through the FFP, Compass Group and its sectors like Morrison Healthcare agreed to pay an additional 1.3 cents per pound for all tomatoes purchased from Florida annually, with one cent per pound being passed from the supplier directly to the harvester.

One cent may not seem like much, but since the CIW launched its Fair Food Program of which Compass Group is a part in 2011, nearly $30 million dollars have been added to participating growers payrolls. This small but mighty premium is continuing to help alleviate economic hardship farmworkers have faced for decades.

Beyond Penny A Pound, the FFP also included a Code of Conduct making it mandatory for farmworkers to have access to:

  • Shade and water
  • The right to report abuses without retaliation
  • A clock-in system to guarantee minimum-wage payment for hours worked
  • The right to form health and safety committees in the fields
  • The promise of zero tolerance for forced labor and sexual harassment

The Success of A Movement

The success of a movement hinges on its supporters who are ready and poised to take action. Compass Group has rallied a Coalition of Fair Food Chefs. Two of those chefs are Morrison’s Cary Neff, VP of Culinary and Paul Ruszat, Regional Executive Chef.  

During their trip to Immokalee, FL, they observed and learned first-hand about the hardship farmworkers face:

“The visit to Immokalee was an awakening experience for me,” said Cary. “I spent the vast majority of my life celebrating and promoting the use of fresh, seasonal produce and although I knew that farmworkers were undervalued for their hard work…it never occurred to me that this group of workers, who we desperately rely on to provide sustenance to our tables would be engaged in a fight for their civil rights.”

Growing up, Paul’s mother taught English as a second language to students near Immokalee. While he was familiar with what used to take place, “The trip to Immokalee brought a heightened awareness of the worker’s plight and has changed the way I shop for food both personally and professionally.”

“In my opinion,” Paul says, “If the sustainability doesn’t start with the people that are growing and picking our food then the rest doesn’t matter. If you’ve got people in slave-like conditions picking your tomatoes, it doesn’t matter how ‘sustainable’ your tomatoes are if people are enduring hardships while picking it.”

Because of their roles in sourcing, purchasing and preparing food, chefs are ideally situated on the front lines to fight for clean and safe foods, safe working environments, fair pay and fair treatment.

Cary continues to encourage our teams to learn more about the Immokalee Farm Workers, demand for Fair Food tomatoes and other fair trade products. He’s encouraging Morrison chefs to speak up too.

“Let our buyers know to purchase responsibility and let our consumers know why it’s important to the lives of others and why we are taking a stand!”

Learn More about CIW and FFP

More About the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of social responsibility, human trafficking, and gender-based violence at work.  Built on a foundation of farmworker community organizing starting in 1993, and reinforced with the creation of a national consumer network since 2000, CIW’s work has steadily grown over more than twenty years to encompass three broad and overlapping spheres…[more]

More about the Fair Food Program

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.

The Program has been called “the best workplace-monitoring program” in the US in the New York Times, and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” in the Washington Post, and has won widespread recognition for its unique effectiveness from a broad spectrum of human rights observers, from the United Nations to the White House…[more]

Celebrating Our Chefs

The success of Morrison and Compass Group is founded on delicious food and the great people who make it. Compass Group is the world’s largest employer of chefs, making our culinary talent the Heart of the House. As you’ve read in this post, our chefs are also leading the way in most critical issues like Human Rights.

This August we will celebrate Chef Appreciation Week (August 13-17) to recognize the incredible people behind the food. Join us in celebrating them by posting why you #LoveYourChef on social media.

Join the Morrison Healthcare Family

Looking for meaningful work helping people? Do you want to marry your passions for the culinary industry and for serving others? Check out available team member or management opportunities to join the Compass One Healthcare and Morrison Healthcare family. We believe in the Power of Food to change lives and are proud of the opportunities we have each day to help people and serve alongside world-class clients.

Morrison is a proud part of Compass One Healthcare and Compass Group USA.

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