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Farmworker Perspective on AJP Standards and Pilot Process

Farmworker Perspective on AJP Standards and Pilot Process

Towards Social Justice and Economic Equity in the Food System

From the beginning, and consistent with its organizational structure and mission, CATA has actively involved its farmworker membership in this project: from the drafting of standards, to the development of the organization’s positions on key issues, to participation in meetings and the broader processes surrounding the meetings. This year, with the advent of the pilot process and the more detailed and nuanced work it would require, it was decided to form a permanent working group of our most interested members. This document is a product of the work of CATA’s Working Group on Social Justice Standards, which includes the following members:

  • José Arturo Zavala, CATA board member and participant in the Montevideo forum
  • Oralia Silva de Guzmán, CATA member and participant in Bangkok forum
  • Ana María Vasquez, CATA board member and active participant in project since 2002
  • Carlos Diaz, President of CATA’s board of directors
  • Richard Mandelbaum, staff support

Many of the highest priorities identified by the working group are process-oriented.  Ensuring workers’ active involvement in the implementation of the program has been cited repeatedly as a keystone to success. The following are the most salient and crucial issues for our project to address and keep in mind as we move forward, from a workers’ perspective. The distinction between process-oriented issues and conditions-oriented issues is to a large degree artificial, as both are addressed in the same fashion - through well drafted standards and careful program implementation.

Process-oriented priorities:

  • Workers being as involved in the program as farmers
  • Importance of capacity building of workers through trainings and education (with the active involvement of local unions or worker organizations)
  • Open lines of communication between workers and the certifier
  • The need to educate consumers (the public) to ensure success of an SJ label
  • Developing mechanisms to ensure equity through the entire chain of production

Conditions-oriented priorities:

  • Right to negotiate fair contracts (for small-scale farmers as well as workers)
  • The rights of undocumented workers
  • Direct employment, i.e. avoidance of the use of labor contractors
  • The right to unionize
  • Protection from termination of employment unless a just cause can be established by the employer (protection from retaliation)
  • Occupational health and safety: The continual reduction of workplace accidents, and the active participation of workers in addressing health and safety issues in the workplace (through committee formation and establishing permanent modes of communication and participatory decision-making)