Stronger Together US is a collaborative program for the fresh produce and wine grapes industries, designed to recognize and reward responsible recruitment practices that increase the supply of ethically sourced labor and reduce risks for workers and businesses.
As 2020 draws to a close, it is an opportunity to reflect on the past year of our program. We have been honored to meet and work with many people in the business and civil society communities who share a passion for ensuring farm workers have access to decent jobs and that US produce continues to thrive.
Our experience leads us to some observations that we want to share and take as motivation for the program’s future direction into 2021 and beyond.
- Responsible recruitment is an important issue; the industry needs farm workers to be secure and safe in their jobs and able to return season after season. Yet, responsible recruitment is but one of many issues competing for prioritization. Dealing with the pandemic this year has become a core concern for many businesses. Responsible recruitment has not been at the top of the list for management’s attention.
- Good employers – those who communicate well and offer attractive benefits – will continue to have loyal workers in good times and bad times. Employers that already had people-focused policies and practices pre-pandemic were better positioned to attract and retain workers. This year has spotlighted why retention matters – employers with higher retention rates have been able to stay on track with their business goals.
- Buyers identify that raising awareness is a critical activity. There is still a great need to communicate the benefits of responsible recruitment and the risks that exist without it.
- Across the board, groups are calling for improved government policy and enforcement of labor laws.
These observations illustrate why our ethos of collaboration and partnership are so vital to the work of creating a demand for responsible recruitment. There are many moving parts to our program, all designed to foster collaboration on this issue. Our activities this year included a range of informative, connective, educational, and co-creation events. We also responded to the public health emergency by bringing together experts on Covid-19 to explore and share how businesses were adapting.
Our core activities this year included the following:
- Perspectives on Covid-19 Crisis Management in US Produce: we produced a series of webinars bringing together practitioners to discuss actions for protecting both employers and workers during the pandemic.
- Responsible Recruitment Toolkit launch: we launched the US fresh produce version of a global online tool that uses a management system approach to embed ethical and professional recruitment and labor management practices. Businesses can subscribe to identify US legal requirements, avoid potential pitfalls, learn from real-life case studies, and perform an in-depth self-assessment that can be shared with clients.
- Introduction to Responsible Recruitment for US Fresh Produce (online): a new training course demonstrating how adopting responsible recruitment practices will address current market challenges, identify hidden labor risks, and continuously improve and differentiate a business as a market leader.
- Working Together to Eliminate Recruitment Fees for Workers in US Fresh Produce: we hosted an in-depth discussion with leaders including Good Farms, Florida Rural Legal Services Inc., Farmworker Justice, and the Responsible Recruitment Toolkit.
- Tackling Forced Labor in U.S. Produce Businesses Toolkit: A comprehensive and practical toolkit for US employers and labor providers to inform, equip and resource them to tackle forced labor in their business and supply chains.
We encourage everyone to review these resources and more on our website; we hope they are valuable in your own work. As we continue to navigate our way in these unpreceded times, we would like to acknowledge and thank the partners and stakeholders that have shared so much time and expertise with us and have helped us shape and inform our program activities. We look forward to building even stronger relationships in the new year. Happy and safe Holidays to you and yours.
The Stronger Together US Team