- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

FOR MYERS, Fla. (AP) - The local farmworker group the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has a new feather in its cap: the first ever national fair food label.

The label was unveiled Friday and is similar to the “cruelty”-free” and “fair trade” stamps on products like cattle to coffee. The “fair food” brands tomatoes picked by workers who are paid a premium and have basic guaranteed rights in the field.

The Fort Myers News-Press reported Saturday the label originated with the Coalition’s campaign for Fair Food (http://newspr.es/1sm1JtW).

“We have waited nearly five years before revealing this label to the world today,” the coalition’s Cruz Salucio said in a statement. “Over those years, we have been doing the hard, day-by-day work of building the Fair Food Program in Florida’s fields - educating workers about their rights, investigating complaints, and identifying and eliminating bad actors and bad practices - so that today we can stand behind the fair conditions and effective monitoring process that this label represents.”

The Coalition got its start advocating to raise farmworker wages by a penny per pound of produce picked. It has also worked to reduce sexual harassment, wage theft and other labor violations. Today, companies like Wal-Mart, Burger King, McDonald’s and Yum Brand’s Taco Bell have all signed agreements with the coalition. Organizers say the results have led to wage increases of about $6,000 annually in some cases, as well as improved health and safety programs and complaint resolution systems.

Whole Foods Is among the companies that will soon be displaying the “fair food” brand.

Earlier this year, the coalition was the focus of a popular documentary called “Food Chains,” produced by Eva Longoria. The film will be released nationally next month. In July, the group received recognition from the New York based Roosevelt Institute, and this fall it received the Clinton Global Citizen Award.

The group continues to press other companies to sign on to its fair food campaign, including the grocery chain Publix.

Publix spokesman Brian West said in an email to the paper that it had no plans to join.

“We are aware that the label was released (but) at this point, we have not spoken with any of our suppliers that may support the effort,” he said.

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Information from: The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press, http://www.news-press.com

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