Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Lesson Learned in Hanger- Fair Food Standards Council Presentation

On Wednesday, the middle day of our experience, we gathered for yet another speaker. Honestly, we were tired, we were hungry, and we did not want to listen to another perspective. Even though we had been soaking in all the wonderful fair food program information we could, I know I would have preferred skipping this talk, and I doubt I would have been alone in that action. But when Victor and Lindsay began describing their work, I was immediately intrigued. They, with ten others, run the Fair Food Standards Council, an independent auditing organization that assures farmworkers on Fair Food-participating farms are treated according to standards. They interview over half the employees at every farm, which I guestimate to be around 15,000 people, every growing season (once a year). They make sure workers are treated justly and as the human they undoubtedly are. They personally visit every farm and talk to workers, make sure each worker has a booklet describing their rights, and give them a number to the 24 hour, 7 day a week hotline, which will take any complaint, anytime and solve it within two weeks. They work separately from but in conjunction with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Alliance for Fair Food, United States Department of Agriculture. They work together with only 12 of them to audit the entire Fair Food farms. They work with a mission for justice.

Though this may sound a bit cliché, it really opened my eyes. I think I have been skeptical all this time of migrant farmworkers because everything I had heard about them was negative. Later it became apparent that even if they were not technically supposed to be here, they were still human and doing work no other Americans would. This presentation really showed me how expansive the migrant farmworkers community is and how many groups have come together to try and end the injustice. I never realized the work the farmerworkers do touch the lives of everyone in our community. Furthermore, other industries are copying the Fair Foods Standards Council’s procedures, including diary farmers in Vermont and construction workers in Texas. This made me realize the scope of workers that I have never thought about being treating unfairly. Additionally, the work of the Fair Foods Standards Council also showed me how people can truly care about other people, no matter their race, residency status, or anything else. Seeing people care for other people without judgment makes me want to do something more with my life and makes me realize that each person has their own journey, own struggle, own needs, and own feelings.

-Margo DeGenova, Junior

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