More and more Americans are asking questions about where their food comes from, but few go so far as to think about who picked it, and under what conditions.
Few Americans are aware that the 1.4 million crop farmworkers who plant, harvest, and pack the food grown throughout the United States are excluded from the basic labor and safety standards upheld in other employment sectors. Likewise, many people would be shocked to learn that farm work has lenient child labor restrictions and little or no overtime limits, collective bargaining rights, or workers’ compensation insurance, although agriculture is considered to be one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S. Even the few rules that do exist for farmworkers are rarely enforced.
At Bon Appétit Management Company, we believe that farmworkers should not only be recognized for their contribution to our food system, but enjoy the same rights and protections as employees in other occupations.
What Bon Appétit is doing
EMPOWERING FARMWORKERS AND SETTING STANDARDS
We are proud to be a founding member of the Equitable Food Initiative, a unique partnership that brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to transform agriculture and improve the lives of farmworkers. (Read the New York Times story about EFI.) EFI brings greater transparency to the supply chain while helping the produce industry address some of its toughest issues like labor, sustainability and food safety. We have moved our contracts for tomatoes and strawberries west of the Mississippi to EFI-certified growers and are actively encouraging additional growers to become EFI certified.
Protecting tomato pickers in Florida
In the vast tomato fields of south Florida, farmworkers are exploited and abused, to the extent that one federal prosecutor called Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” In 2009, Bon Appétit executives and chefs visited Immokalee, FL, and witnessed these deplorable conditions firsthand. We were the first food service company to partner with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker organization with whom we forged a new agreement that frames acceptable working conditions and enforces those conditions with a strict code of conduct for tomato growers.
Educating consumers about conditions for farmworkers
Farmworker Awareness Week: Every March, our cafés spotlight farmworker issues with guest activities and educational materials. (See 2018’s campaign.)
- TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change: In October 2011, the BAMCO Foundation hosted a special conference that focused on farmworkers and labor movements. The speakers included farmworkers, farmers, activists, artists, students, professors, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs, and the live webcast was watched by groups all around the country. The 23 videos are available on YouTube.
- The Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States: In March 2011 the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation and United Farm Workers of America, with support from Oxfam America, released a groundbreaking report detailing the lack of laws and protections for crop farmworkers in the U.S. The report has become required reading in many university and law-school classrooms, and we were honored with the 2011 Cruz Reynoso-Ralph Abascal Don Quixote Award from California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) for our efforts.
- Equitable Food Initiative
- CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food
- Food Chains documentary
- Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook
- Farmworker Awareness Week
- TEDxFruitvale speakers on YouTube
- Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States report (PDF)