As a family-owned company with more than 100
years of farming heritage, Driscoll’s has over the
past several months focused on ensuring proper
working conditions are in place on the independent
farms that supply its berries.
This commitment speaks to the brand’s belief that it is their responsibility to ensure its berries are grown and harvested in a way that demonstrates socially responsible business practices and that all farm workers are treated with respect, that their workplaces are clean and healthy, and that employment within the Driscoll's business enterprise provides income opportunities that meet or exceed local standards.
Driscoll’s has conveyed a commitment to evaluate and improve its business practices, as well as a pride in its track record as it relates to worker welfare. The agriculture leader has published more information about Driscoll’s overall worker welfare efforts and the initiatives Driscoll’s is implementing as part of its commitment to continually improving its sustainable business practices at www.driscolls.com/workerwelfare
In 2015, Driscoll’s formalized and publicly published global Worker Welfare standards. While Driscoll’s has always required that its growers comply with all laws and regulations, the newly adopted Worker Welfare standards represent additional criteria that apply where local, state or federal laws do not exist, are not consistently enforced, or provide lower protection to the workers. These standards are based upon the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions and Recommendations, the Global Social Compliance Program (GSCP), the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and a collaborative review of agriculture-specific standards from several non-governmental organizations. In addition to providing another layer of protection for the workers, Driscoll’s Worker Welfare standards place a premium on worker safety and feature a zero tolerance policy towards child labor, health and safety condition and the abuse of workers.
Driscoll’s continues to work with an independent, third-party auditing firm to ensure Worker Welfare standards are being upheld. This program enables Driscoll’s to conduct comprehensive and disciplined assessments of its growers, including those in Mexico. In addition, the company believes that workers at its independent farms must feel safe in making their voice heard and is currently developing a credible, third-party grievance procedures for all farm workers.
Driscoll’s continue to demonstrate proactive measures by taking on important roles and leading key initiatives. Driscoll’s recognizes that actions speak louder than words and that the company must lead by example. To demonstrate how important the issue of worker welfare is to the brand, a Driscoll's senior executive was elected to lead the International Produce Alliance to Promote a Socially Responsible Industry, placing Driscoll’s at the center of an effort to improve working conditions for hundreds of thousands of farm laborers in Mexico.
In addition, Driscoll’s launched a small pilot program with Fair Trade USA in early 2016, which is initially focused on bringing to market Fair Trade-certified organic strawberries and organic raspberries that are grown in Baja, Mexico. A core benefit of Fair Trade USA certification is that 100 percent of the additional funds generated through participating retailers (select Whole Foods and Costco locations) are directed back to the farmworkers and the communities that grew the berries. This process enables a democratic system where each local community that grew the berries will vote to determine how their funds will be invested. This can range from education, health care, clean water, job training or other social services not provided by local governments.
Driscoll’s believes this program will empower communities, giving local workers an active voice in how they improve the areas in which they work and live. Please visit www.fairtradeusa.org
to learn more about Fair Trade USA or to see examples of how developing communities have used funds from certified fair trade produce to improve their quality of life.
Finally, Driscoll’s continues to embrace any and all opportunities to meet and speak with any NGOs who may have concerns about its network of independent growers and how their farm workers are treated. Over the past year, Driscoll’s met with several international organizations, including those at the center of the labor issues in Washington State, to have open and honest conversations with a number of groups and the conversations were incredibly productive.
Driscoll’s continue to be clear about its role when it comes to freedom of association, collective bargaining or unionization. While some organizations think that by putting pressure on Driscoll’s that it will dictate how the brand’s independent growers operate. According to Driscoll’s, this is simply not the case. Driscoll’s Worker Welfare standards ensure workers have the freedom whether to choose (or not to choose) to establish, affiliate and take action in free and independent legal workers’ organizations without interference or reprisals. This choice is one that must be made by the workers and not Driscoll’s or any other organizations or groups. Further, collective bargaining through union representation needs to have a defined process. The process used in California is one that has worked well over the years and Driscoll’s advocates that unionization outside of California (both in the U.S. and in Mexico) should follow a similar approach.