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Bon Appétit rises to Immokalee farmworkers defense, bashes "pseudo" complaint

Not every food-industry company is getting behing a big-business funded complaint against the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers. Here's an email from Bon Appétit Management Company:

"At Bon Appétit Management Company, we are proud to be partners with the CIW. In fact, we were the first food service company to work with the CIW and develop a Code of Conduct. We did so without having been the target of a single protest. We took action because everyone deserves to be paid fairly for their work, treated with respect, and protected from toxic work environments and the Campaign for Fair Food was our best tool in that effort.

"We are quite concerned about the often disingenuous and potentially nefarious actions of so-called industry groups such as the Worker Center Watch. We believe the motivation of the WCW does not lie with the "industry" it claims to represent — or at least they should not speak so broadly for all food companies. We are a well-known food service company that supports CIW in securing fair treatment of workers who harvest some of the food we serve.

"As with other pseudo advocacy organizations such as the Center for Consumer Freedom (with whose representatives we've tangled before http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/gestation-crate-bon-appetit-pork-network_n_2916146.html ), WCW appears to be more concerned with tarnishing the image of well-known advocacy groups and cutting off their funding money than doing anything constructive."

Comments

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Ryan Williams

The complaint filed by Worker Center Watch against the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their phony smear campaign is serious and valid. It is an undisputed fact that workers have been forced to pursue legal action to get the money that they were promisedthrough CIW’s fraudulent food program. It also an undisputed fact that CIW has systematically targeted brands by no other criterion than their market position and balance sheet. Despite the spin from the Coalition for Immokalee Workers and its allies, its clear that the this organization’s true goals are to harass job creators and implement Big Labor’s agenda in the agriculture sector.

Jim

Worker Center Watch is run by big time Republican consultants based out of the Washington D.C. offices of FP1 Strategies. This is a classic case of outside interests groups trying to poison the public image of a legitimate organization like the CIW, which has received wide praise for its human rights work.

Ryan Williams is a long-time Republican consultant who works for FP1 Strategies, which operates campaigns for people like Ted Cruz. Williams himself helped run Mitt Romney's campaign. To take his word as anything other than smooth carefully crafted propaganda, bought and paid for by the business lobby, is insane. I wonder how much money he is being paid to wage a smear campaign against the CIW and the vulnerable under-paid workers who rely on it to make their voices heard?
Mr. Williams, if CIW targets brands solely based on market share and balance sheet, then why are they focusing on Publix, a relatively small Florida grocery chain, rather than Walmart, the largest grocer in the country? Your op-eds and letters are misleading and disingenuous. Go back to Washington, D.C. where you belong.

Anne Hartley

Ryan Williams is way off base. The fact that he would target one of the nation's most respected and awarded human rights organizations shows exactly how successful and threatening their campaign has become to the Republican party and some business leaders. This smear campaign points out how out of touch with mainstream America the Republican party has become. The American Dream isn't about grabbing every penny you can no matter the cost. The American Dream promises opportunities to each newcomer to thrive, not to keep workers in poverty while others profit. I believe we'll see in the next presidential election exactly which American Dream most of us embrace. I have to congratulate Bon Appetit for speaking up on this issue, and encourage and other members of the Fair Food Program (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, McDonalds, Burger King, Yum! Brands, Chipotle, Sodexo, Aramark, Subway) to do the same.

Anne Hartley

Read what the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights had to say about the CIW: "The Working Group was impressed by how such governance gaps relating to labour issues were addressed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a multi-stakeholder initiative to enhance the working conditions of the largely immigrant workforce in the Florida agricultural sector. The CIW innovatively addresses core worker concerns, relies on market incentives for participating growers, and has an independent and robust enforcement mechanism. To overcome abuses in their industry workers, tomato growers and corporate buyers developed the Fair Food Code of Conduct setting-out minimum standards for workers and pay. We met participants who spoke of the advantages enjoyed by their business operations and workers who related the improvements in working conditions as a consequence of the scheme.

The merits of such a multi-stakeholder scheme are clear and have not required a government role, but the Working Group notes that the ultimate responsibility to ensure that rights are protected remains with the government. Concerted action by stakeholders in the tomato sector in Florida arose from two decades of campaigning even though the government was aware of the risks faced by workers." http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13284&LangID=E

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