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Protecting the Rights of Farmworkers is Protecting the Right to Food


MIAMI LAW HUMAN RIGHTS CLINIC SUPPORTS LOCAL FARMWORKER COALITION TO STOP MODERN DAY SLAVERY


By Nicole Azarian and Lindsey Graham


Does your grocery store source its produce from farms subjecting their workers to human rights abuses? Interns at the Miami Law Human Rights Clinic seek to increase community visibility of human rights abuses, including those related to the right to food of actors in the food system, occurring in in our own backyard and abroad by engaging in Corporate Accountability work.


This Fall, the University of Miami’s Human Rights Clinic added an exciting new team to its docket: the Corporate Accountability Team. The Team’s main objective has been assisting EarthRights International, a non-profit human rights NGO that specializes in strategic human rights litigation, with its upcoming trial against Chiquita Brands International. Globally, fundamental human rights bodies like the United Nations Human Rights Council are turning their attention towards accountability for corporations as well as nations.


Now, the Team hopes to take its focus beyond the West Palm Courthouse and into the street by supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Farmworker Freedom Festival, which seeks to increase consumer awareness of the unethical supply chains perpetuated by corporations like Publix, Kroger, and Wendy’s. With the collective power of consumers, the CIW hopes to generate more corporate partnerships in their Fair Food Program (FFP), a policy change that corporations can implement to ensure their supply chain maintains basic human rights from the field to our plates. The CIW “is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work.  The CIW is also recognized for pioneering the design and development of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility paradigm, a worker-led, market-enforced approach to the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains.”


The FFP ties together the work of two important teams of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami Law School: the previously mentioned Corporate Accountability Team, and the Right to Food Team. On September 12, 2023, the Right to Food Team and the National Right to Food Community of Practice submitted a Shadow Report to the Human Rights Committee for the review of the United States. In this Report, the Right to Food Team linked labor law violations to violations of the right to food:


“Our food labor systems depend on the essential work of Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities, yet these groups also suffer the highest rates of food insecurity in the U.S. They are also often excluded from worker protections, including the right to form trade unions, available to employees in other labor fields. Agricultural workers, particularly those who are immigrant and undocumented, face egregious labor law violations due to their undocumented status and the lack of protection available to them. These abuses are exacerbated by gender discrimination. Female laborers in the food system face harassment that often goes unprevented and unaddressed. Additionally, female farmworkers are more likely to be placed in lower paying and dangerous jobs that lead to higher levels of pesticide exposure, which is particularly harmful to pregnant women. These acts violate articles 2, 3, 6, 21, 22, and 26 of the ICCPR.”


The Right to Food team’s work sheds light on how the oppressive systems in the United States are deeply tied to the accessibility of food for minority communities.


On January 23, the Human Rights Clinic heard a presentation from CIW organizer Lupe Gonzalo, who emphasized the power consumers hold in pressuring large corporations to improve their business models to recognize universal human rights. To call attention to the urgent need to expand the FFP’s Presidential Medal-winning protections to as many farms as possible, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will host the first-ever Farmworker Freedom Festival in Palm Beach from March 8-10, 2024.  There, farmworkers and their allies will celebrate the unprecedented gains the FFP has brought to the fields throughout the US, and demand that corporations like Kroger, Publix, and Wendy’s — companies that are deeply responsible for the working conditions for farmworkers in their supply chains due to their unprecedented purchasing power — do what is right and join the Program.”




Learn more about the CIW’s efforts by visiting: https://ciw-online.org/fair-food-program/.

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