May 12th and May 13th are both big days for Food for Maine’s Future. On the 12th we are co-sponsoring a talk by our friend from the Coalition of Immokalee workers Gerardo Chavez:
Event: Coalition of Immokalee Workers organizer, Gerardo Reyes Chavez, will speak about the groundbreaking farm worker rights movement in the tomato fields of Florida and the effective establishment of the Fair Food Program. Discussion to follow on how area Mainers can support this movement. For more information: 266-6846
When and Where: Monday, May 12th, 2014, 7pm
at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth, 121 Bucksport Road.
Sponsored by( more sponsors pending): The Community Union of Ellsworth, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth’s Peace and Social Action Committee, Food for Maine’s Future, Power In Community Alliances (PICA).
Background : The worker-led Coalition of Immokalee Workers has worked tirelessly to change the abusive labor conditions and poverty wages experienced by farm workers in the tomato fields of Florida. Already great changes have been made in an industry historically riddled with rampant labor and human rights abuses, including wage theft, physical abuse, sexual harassment, and cases of forced servitude.
After years of organizing, public campaigns, direct action, and negotiations with retailers and growers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has facilitated the creation of the highly effective Fair Food Program, which requires retailers, who agree to participate, to pay farmworkers a penny and a half per pound premium for tomatoes picked, and obligates them to purchase from farms adhering to a fair labor code of conduct. In 2010, the Florida Tomato Growers Association, representing 90% of Florida’s tomato growers, became part of the program, opening their farms to independent and enforceable monitoring. Integral to the Fair Food Program is worker participation. Fieldworkers are educated on their rights and can report abuses without fear of reprisal. New changes initiated include the requirement of time clocks, access to clean water and protection from harsh weather and pesticides.
Thirteen retailers nationwide have signed on to the Fair Food Program. The latest to sign are Walmart and Delmonte Fresh Produce. A number of grocery chains continue to resist participation, including the Florida based Publix. Of the nation’s top 5 fast food restaurants, Wendy’s is the only hold out.
The state did not drop their lawsuit. It’s been a long 2 1/2 years as the case against Dan has worked its way through the court system, and through many legislative ups and downs as legislators have worked to correct the mistaken law interpretation that changed Maine’s policy toward the direct sale of milk from the farm.
One such bill passed only to be vetoed by Governor LePage. This session, another bill that sought to instate the pre-2009 policy into statute. Under strong industry pressure, in a very partisan election year, that bill failed.
Dan Brown is still in the midst of the policy-law confusion instigated at the Quality Assurance and Regulation Division 5 years ago. Please come to Portland on the 13th, support Dan Brown and farmers like him. Support your access to farm food.
Maine’s Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on May 13th at 11:40 in Portland, ME.
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