Featured Image: Farmworkers’ Rights

Farmworkers’ Rights

At Bon Appétit Management Company, we believe that farmworkers should not only be honored for their contribution to our food system, but enjoy the same rights and protections as employees in other occupations.

“We hope the way Bon Appétit Management Company lives its values inspires other companies to do the same.” — from the Cruz Reynoso-Ralph Abascal Don Quixote Award, California Rural Legal Assistance

Did you know 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 that other employees take for granted? 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 among the most hazardous industries in the U.S. Even the few rules that do exist for farmworkers are rarely enforced. (Learn more)

What we’re 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.

Educating consumers about conditions for farmworkers:

fedele and lucas

Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers with Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio in Florida in 2009

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 (PDF) for tomato growers.

Putting our weight behind Oregon farmworkers: In 2001 we were the first food service company to support the boycott of produce grown by NORPAC, Oregon’s largest food processing and packaging cooperative, which was refusing to negotiate with farmworkers represented by Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, better known by its Spanish acronym PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste). In 2002 NORPAC agreed to abide by a set of labor guidelines.