CIW Awarded Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Modern Slavery

"...[our] efforts, born in a forgotten community’s desperate struggle for survival, were celebrated in the halls of power of the highest office of the land.” - CIW

In case you missed it, just a few short weeks ago the CIW was awarded the 2015 Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Presented at the White House by Secretary of State John Kerry,  the award reads: 

“For its extraordinary efforts to combat human trafficking by pioneering the Fair Food Program, empowering agricultural workers, and leveraging market forces and consumer awareness to promote supply chain transparency and eradicate modern slavery on participating farms, we award this Presidential Award.”

This week, news of the award has continued to make waves, with an excellent analysis in the Huffington Post titled  "This Human Rights Group Is A Model For How The U.S. Can End Slave Labor." The piece, which lays out the power of the Fair Food Program model the CIW has created, reads, in part:

"The White House noted the 'excellent work' being done through CIW’s Fair Food Program, which connects farmers, farmworkers and retailers to ensure all workers are paid fairly and working conditions are humane.

According to The White House, the program’s unique approach to promote consumer awareness and leverage market power — working with such giants as Walmart, McDonald’s and Subway — has helped to fight labor trafficking within the Sunshine State’s tomato industry."

In its presentation following the award at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains, the CIW used the opportunity to stress the total failure of traditional corporate self-monitoring standards, in which corporations claim to uphold human rights in their supply chains through empty, PR-driven vendor codes.

In contrast, the CIW  outlined the innovative model in which workers play the principal role in designing, implementing and monitoring their own rights, sharing their vision to strengthen and expand the historic gains underway in Florida's fields, saying:

“It was a humbling moment, and the medal represents a solemn responsibility to continue this fight so that the full potential of the worker-driven social responsibility model may be reached in low-wage worker communities throughout the agricultural industry and around the world.”

Kerry further recognized the incredible work of the CIW and the transformational role the Fair Food Program has played in bringing justice for farmworkers to the fields:

“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have organized communities, stood by tomato workers for more than 20 years, and changed the face of this industry. They’ve pioneered a zero tolerance policy that puts workers and social responsibility at the absolute center. Their program ensures a price premium which buyers agree to pay directly to the farm worker, and the Coalition provides worker-to-worker training sessions on site around the clock. They make certain that there are health and safety committees... on every farm. And they’ve already enlisted the major support of buyers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Compass Group, and Fresh Market.”

The moment was celebrated around the country, with shout-outs from Civil Eats and Eva Longoria to Chief Assistant US Attorney Doug Molloy, and even one special message the CIW themselves:

“We want to close with a warm thanks to all of the close allies who have accompanied us for the twenty years leading up to this moment.  The medal first and foremost honors thousands of farmworkers — the victims of forced labor, the resolute witnesses, and the many other courageous men and women who have been fighting to eradicate abuse from an entire industry.  But it also goes out to the many, many people across the country (and the world) who have marched beside them for the past two decades.”