Students call on Sodexo to follow suit as Aramark agrees to work with CIW
Responding to an escalating campaign waged by students on campuses across the country, Aramark has agreed to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to directly improve farmworker wages and working conditions in the tomato fields of Florida. The agreement comes a year into the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA)'s 'Dine with Dignity' campaign, which calls on major food service providers to take responsibility for the human rights crisis and grinding poverty faced by workers in their tomato supply chains. SFA's Dine with Dignity campaign has also helped to usher in groundbreaking agreements between the CIW and Bon Appetit Management Company and Compass Group. With the ascension of Aramark, Sodexo now stands isolated as the only major food service provider to not yet join this rising tide of social responsibility. 'This victory is a testament to the power we have as students and young people standing together with farmworkers. The agreement comes in the wake of several successful campus campaigns resulting in Student Senate resolutions calling on Aramark to work with the CIW, including at UF. Thanks to this movement, Aramark has come to understand that the voice and participation of farmworkers themselves are necessary and central components of any real change in the agricultural industry. Sodexo should take note, as all eyes are on them now,' said Richard Blake, Student/Farmworker Alliance member at the University of Florida. 'Victory by victory, we're carving out a new world of fair wages, human rights, and dignity from the shameful history of exploitation in Florida's fields. Now that Aramark has come around, Sodexo doesn't have a leg to stand on. If corporations like Sodexo and Publix are to truly embrace social responsibility and guarantee to consumers that the food on our tables is not the product of human rights abuse, they must step up and follow Aramark and several other industry leaders in agreeing to work with the CIW,' said Meghan Cohorst, Student/Farmworker Alliance. 'As the daughter of a migrant farmworker and student at an Aramark-contracted campus literally down the road from Immokalee, I had no choice but to be a leader in this fight. Even on a seemingly apathetic and conservative campus, we made a difference and garnered significant support amongst the student body for this campaign. SFA has once again played a crucial role in walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the CIW to another victory. Now, Florida's self-described community grocer, Publix, must come to the table and understand that farmworkers are also part of our communities and deserve to be treated with respect,' said Angela Cisneros, Student/Farmworker Alliance member at Florida Gulf Coast University. Farmworkers picking tomatoes for the corporate food industry toil from dawn to dusk for sub-poverty wages at a piece rate (40-50 cents for each 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes) that has not changed significantly in over 30 years. They perform this grueling, dangerous work with no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick leave, no pension, and without the legal rights to form unions or to demand collective bargaining with their employers, stemming from New Deal-era exclusions of farm- and domestic workers from many of these basic labor and human rights. The CIW-led Campaign for Fair Food, in which SFA is a key catalyst, seeks to transform this reality by enlisting the resources of retail food giants to improve farmworker wages and harnessing their demand to reward growers who respect their workers' rights. The Student/Farmworker Alliance (http://sfalliance.org) is a national network comprised of students and youth across the country organizing in close alliance with the CIW. During the course of the four-year Taco Bell Boycott, which ended successfully in the 2005 CIW-Taco Bell agreement, SFA members organized to remove or prevent Taco Bell restaurants and sponsorships from 25 separate high schools, colleges and universities. SFA has received national recognition for its work including the '2005 Campus Activism Victory of the Year' from Mother Jones Magazine and special honors from the Greensboro Justice Fund, American Rights at Work, Business Ethics Network (2005 and 2009), and the National Latino/a Law Student Association. SFA is also a founding member of the Alliance for Fair Food, a broad network of human rights, religious, student, sustainable food/agriculture, labor, and other organizations working in partnership with the CIW. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (http://ciw-online.org) is an internationally recognized, award-winning farmworker organization based in southern Florida. It has assisted the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI in successfully investigating and prosecuting 6 cases of modern-day agricultural slavery and has been recognized with the 2007 Anti-Slavery International Award and the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. The CIW's Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for fundamental farm labor reforms from retail food industry leaders.