The Fair Food Campaign
Call it United Farmworkers 2.0. A coalition of consumer activists and farmworkers launched the “Fair Food Program” as an effort to draw attention to the plight of farm laborers. Focusing on the tomato industry, they demanded a “penny per pound” price increase to fund higher wages and improved working conditions for farm workers. They targeted key retail outlets—Taco Bell, McDonalds, and others—with boycotts in an effort to draw attention and secure greater buy in. And they succeeded, as companies like Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Chipolte, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and others agreed to the additional one cent per pound for tomatoes. One cent per pound allowed wages for farmworkers to double and came with a code of conduct improving working conditions.
And this week they secured what is perhaps their most important victory to date: Walmart. On Thursday, Walmart announced it was joining the Fair Food Program, joining other retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in a commitment to pay an additional one cent per pound of tomatoes.
The Penny Per Pound applies only to Florida’s tomato growers (but that accounts for about 90 percent of commercially produced tomatoes in the United States. But working conditions remain a distant fourth in public thinking about food, as questions like safety, price, and environmental sustainability are seen as more important.
But as the Fair Food Campaign continues, farm workers are mobilizing to draw attention not just to the cost and safety of the food we consume, but the conditions under which the food we consume is produced. The food chain is finally (and rightly) becoming a key unit of analysis.