|Karin Astrid Siegmann|
On the 29th of July 2015, the Dutch retailer Ahold announced a historic agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a migrant farmworkers’ organisation in Florida’s tomato fields. Being signatory of the CIW’s Fair Food Program (FFP) implies the following: Ahold-USA commits to a wage premium in its supply chain in the form of a ‘penny per pound’ of harvested tomatoes, compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, the provision of worker-to-worker education sessions, a worker-triggered complaint resolution mechanism, as well as the establishment of health and safety committees on every participating farm.
The retailer’s participation represents a quantum leap towards decent work for workers who are disadvantaged relative to most other US wage and salary workers on the basis of their poverty, occupational hazards, their vulnerability to unemployment and their irregular immigration status (Kandel 2008).
The agreement marks a U-turn for Ahold. Since 2010, the company had responded to the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food with a ‘slow NO’. During shareholder meetings and in public statements, the retailer had denied responsibility for farmworker wages in their suppliers’ fields, arguing that enforcement of labour standards is the duty of US public bodies. In addition, it maintained that its own Standards of Engagement for suppliers were sufficient to guarantee fair and dignified working conditions in its supply chain, and that it already sources from growers who participate in the FFP - without disclosing, though, who those tomato growers are.