Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A victory for Denver! CIW, Sodexo reach Fair Food agreement!

In another huge victory in the Campaign for Fair Food, the massive food service provider Sodexo - which contracts with all three of Denver's major college campuses, University of Denver, Regis University and Auraria Campus - has signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

We, the people of Denver, should be proud because this is our victory too! Students, both as individuals and members of organizations, from all of Denver's campuses took actions, both big and small, to demand that Sodexo partner with the CIW. The Student Adivisory Committee to the Auraria Board, a student government body composed of representatives from all Auraria's schools, even passed a resolution on the issue which you can read here. We'll give a special shout out to those members of SACAB, UMAS/MEChA de Auraria, the Regis Social Justice Committee, the DU Sustainability Committee, and the UCD Student Government who provided important contributions to this campaign.

Farmworkers continue moving forward toward creating an agricultural industry that does not rely on the exploitation of their labor, and toward a world that does not rely on the exploitation of others. And we are creating that world with them!

Now is the time to redouble our efforts against Denver-based companies such as Quiznos and Chipotle who still give only lip service to the call for human rights and dignity for farmworkers! Now is the time to demand that King Sooper uphold farmworkers' human rights as well!

One final note on Sodexo: just because this campaign is over, and in spite of the statements of Sodexo executives (see below), it does not mean Sodexo is off the hook when it comes to worker rights. Employees of Sodexo in Denver (and around the nation) are organizing for basic protections, decent wages and affordable health care. These workers deserve our support!

Below is the announcement from the CIW explaining the significance of this latest agreement and what's next for the Campaign. Check out the CIW website, ciw-online.org for all the latest news.

Sodexo signs Fair Food agreement with CIW!

Big Three foodservice industry leaders now squarely behind growing movement for Fair Food!...

Saying, "Sodexo is committed to protecting and upholding the rights of all workers, whether employed directly by us or by our business partners and suppliers,” Arlin Wasserman, Sodexo vice president for sustainability and corporate social responsibility, announced today that his company has signed an agreement to work with the CIW to improve wages and working conditions in the fields of its Florida tomato suppliers.

Speaking on behalf of the CIW, Lucas Benitez added:

“We are happy to be working with an industry leader like Sodexo to advance fundamental human rights in Florida’s fields. Social responsibility takes a genuine, sustained engagement with workers and growers on the ground, and a determination to support, with increased business, those growers who agree to comply with the highest standards.”

“Together with Sodexo and our other partners, we are building a system of real accountability, with tangible consequences for growers who fail to protect farm workers’ basic rights,” continued Benitez. “It is our belief that such accountability, with worker input, will be the foundation for lasting improvements in the industry.”
See the joint announcement in its entirety here.

This is very big news for the growing Campaign for Fair Food. The foodservice industry -- the companies that, operating largely behind the scenes, manage cafeterias in the nation's grade schools and universities, hospitals and hotels, government agencies and institutions, and more -- is comprised, almost in its entirety, of its three largest members, Compass, Aramark, and Sodexo. With today's announcement, all three of those companies have now signed Fair Food agreements and will be implementing those agreements in their supply chains this coming season. This marks the conclusion of the Student/Farmworker Alliance's remarkably successful "Dine with Dignity" campaign, a campaign that combined energetic campus activism with smart tactics to bring all three industry leaders to the table in just over one year.

With the four largest fast-food companies -- McDonald's, Yum Brands, Burger King, and Subway -- likewise having signed Fair Food agreements with the CIW, the focus now falls squarely on the supermarket industry. And with the exception of Whole Foods, the natural food leader that signed an agreement with the CIW nearly two years ago, it's time now for the major grocery chains to step up and bring their considerable purchasing power to the plate.

Publix, Ahold, Kroger and WalMart -- which alone sells fully 25% of all food sold in US grocery stores -- all pack a very heavy punch when it comes to their market power in the produce industry. And with great power comes great responsibility -- both for the poverty and brutal working conditions from which they have profited for so many years, and for the work of reforming farm labor conditions in their supply chains that lies ahead.

If the goal of a more modern, more humane Florida tomato industry is to be fully realized, the supermarket giants must do their part.

And so, with today's great news from Sodexo, the Campaign for Fair Food completes its first decade -- with the support of the vast majority of the fast-food and foodservice industries now behind us -- and turns to the supermarket industry. This coming season, the battle for the future of Florida's farmworkers will be joined in the produce aisles of your local grocer.

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