25 April 2014

Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program hailed for raising standards for low-wage workers

Ms. Foundation for Women grantee the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is featured in a New York Times article about its Fair Food Program. The article reports that the program has been hailed as one of the most effective efforts to raise standards for low-wage workers:
“'This is the best workplace-monitoring program I’ve seen in the U.S.,' said Janice R. Fine, a labor relations professor at Rutgers. 'It can certainly be a model for agriculture across the U.S. If anybody is going to lead the way and teach people how it’s done, it’s them.'”
 The Fair Food Program implements standards to raise wages and safety standards, including policies to stop verbal and sexual harassment. Key to its success, enforcement of the standards is not left to the employers:
"A former New York State judge, Laura Safer Espinoza, oversees the inspection apparatus, which interviews thousands of workers, audits payrolls and conducts in-depth interviews with farm managers.  There are lengthy trainings for crew leaders, and six of them were fired after her team investigated allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment."
Click here to read the entire article. 

24 April 2014

Take Our Daughters to Work Day -- 21 years later

Take Our Daughters to Work Day: The Trojan Horse
by Marie Wilson, Ms. Foundation for Women honorary founding mother and president emerita

Today (Thursday, April 24, 2014), we will again celebrate Take Our Daughters to Work Day; the program that The Ms. Foundation for Women launched in April of 1993.

Based on research by Carol Gilligan and her colleagues at Harvard, Take Our Daughters to Work Day’s publicly stated goal was strengthening the honest voices of pre-adolescent girls by linking them to adults who cared about girls' lives, and introducing them to the workplaces they would eventually enter.

It did its job and changed the lives of millions of girls across the US and the world. But for the foundation, it was also a Trojan Horse.

Since the research showed that pre-adolescent girls resisted losing their truth-telling authentic voices, we knew our young female visitors would remind adult women of the voices of fairness and justice that they themselves once used, but subsequently silenced.

And our daughters did not disappoint!

In the workplaces, girls asked probing questions about women, men and work:  why are you investing in tobacco when you don’t want me to smoke?” “Why aren’t there more women in the newsroom?”  “Your job is boring…didn’t you ever want to do anything else?”

The first year, we toyed with a press conference to reveal our broader vision. At the close of the day we would have some of our adult hosts speak about what these “outsider” observations taught them. But we chickened out.

Eventually, however, we heard stories from workplaces where girls’ viewpoints altered ad campaigns, policies and even provoked evaluations of long held practices.

Plus there were the moving stories of girls who looked at their parent’s work through a different lens, and took pride in working class jobs that the world does not always honor. As a daughter of the working class, it moved me when girls wrote us about seeing how valuable the work of a parent was; especially when the job was one often undervalued by society.

Anywhere I travel, young women come up to tell me how this day changed their lives. I’m glad to report that many of them are working on ways that they can play it forward.

The justice seeking voices of girls will enter the workplaces again this week. But once more, their voices will not just be directed at the workplace; they will often challenge the unfairness that our country is struggling with today.

This is the work that we all need to be taken to. My hope is that our daughter’s voices and their justice-seeking questions will strengthen our resolve to be a fairer society; one that works for all our nation’s children.

18 April 2014

Effort to protect farmworkers from sexual assault is gaining momentum

From the Coalition of Immokalee Workers blog:

“The Fair Food Program is a transformative, model program”

study conducted in 2010 found that 80% of farmworker women report that they have experienced sexual harassment on the job.  That number is incomprehensible, until you stop to think of the immense imbalance of power between workers and their employers that defines most farm labor jobs.  The near total dependence of many farmworkers on their bosses — for everything from employment to, in many cases, housing, transportation, and, in the case of guest workers, even their right to live and work in the country — is the kind of relationship that lends itself to abuse.  As a result, sexual harassment in the fields is effectively endemic, and has been for decades.
In one sector of the agricultural industry, though, that devastating story is starting to change, and two recent articles highlight the gains women farmworkers are seeing in the Florida tomato industry today thanks to the Fair Food Program (FFP).  In the words of the CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo, who worked for years in the tomato harvest before joining the CIW staff two years ago to help educate her fellow workers on their rights under the FFP, “When we arrive home at the end of the day, we can hug our children happily, knowing that we didn’t have to sell our dignity in the fields.  We brought it home with us.”

01 April 2014

National Latina Institute for Health takes the fight for women's health to the UN

Taking the Fight for Reproductive Justice to the United Nations...

"[There is a] health-care crisis—not only for the women in the [Rio Grande] Valley but for millions of other women in the country."

Ms. Foundation grantee the National Latina Institute for Health (NLIRH) recently traveled to Geneva to share their report: "Nuestra Salud, Nuestra Voz, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Reproductive Health Care in the Rio Grande Valley." Lucy Felix,  field coordinator the NLIRH Texas Latina Advocacy Network/Red de Abogacía de Latinas de Texas, tells the story of her trip to deliver the report on RH Reality Check:

Every single day, I talk to Latinas and immigrant women across the Rio Grande Valley, listening to their stories, hearing about their families, and teaching them how to stay healthy. Last month, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to travel to Geneva with our allies from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and speak before the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of all of the women in my Texas community who are suffering from a lack of reproductive health care. It was my opportunity to tell them everything I have heard and spotlight the urgency of this health-care crisis—not only for the women in the Valley but for millions of other women in the country.

Read the rest of Lucy's story.