Stronger Together Receives Grant from Walmart Foundation to deliver Responsible Recruitment Program for US Agriculture

April 10, 2019 7:48 pm, Published by , Leave your thoughts

April 11th, 2019—Today, Stronger Together launched a new, pragmatic, multi-stakeholder effort to stimulate a responsible recruitment marketplace for farmworker employment in the US produce industry. The program seeks to create demand for responsible recruitment, increase the supply of ethically sourced labor, and improve the recruitment and employment experience for migrant workers.

There is a growing number of migrant workers in the US produce industry; in FY2018, the number of workers admitted to the United States via the H2A guest worker visa rose to nearly 243,000.  Migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation and are at risk of forced labor due to poor recruitment, contracting, and management practices by unscrupulous or uninformed labor brokers and employers.  A systemic lack of transparency and oversight across the industry makes it difficult for farmers to identify these problems.

To achieve responsible recruitment, it will be necessary to unlock systemic industry-wide collaboration.” said Tara Holeman, Stronger Together US Program Manager. “We need to harness the influence and expertise of stakeholders across the industry to make responsible recruitment the expected norm, to contribute to the development of solutions, and to provide farm labor contractors and their business partners the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to demonstrate that they are operating in a fair and transparent manner.”

The US produce industry has already made inroads by promoting ethical practices throughout the supply chain, including the grower level,” said Marianne Voss, Stronger Together US Program Manager.  “The Stronger Together program will build on this, promoting the business benefits of ensuring that migrant workers experience a decent and professional pre-employment recruitment experience.  These benefits include attracting the best workers, reducing farm labor shortages, and increasing worker commitment and retention.”

The 2-year program, made possible by an $870,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, will engage and equip the US produce industry to foster widespread responsible recruitment and a reduction in forced labor risks by:

  • Launching stakeholder forums and support networks to build awareness, dialogue, joint advocacy, and cooperation among stakeholders aimed at accelerating a responsible recruitment marketplace;
  • Partnering with migrant worker organizations to conduct baseline research and raise awareness with workers about their rights, as well as develop a response plan should any form of forced labor be suspected or found;
  • Supporting businesses to embed responsible recruitment in their supply chains via workshops and the Responsible Recruitment Toolkit (RRT), offering pragmatic advice and resources to implement responsible management systems and to self-assess and report progress;
  • Supporting farm labor contractors to deter, detect, and deal with forced labor, labor trafficking, and other hidden third-party exploitation of workers through straightforward guidance, free training workshops, online monitoring tools and resources;
  • Piloting Clearview, a social compliance certification scheme, enabling labor providers to demonstrate through independent verification their commitment to responsible recruitment.

“We believe in the power of collaboration to address systematic, industry-wide issues. This grant will support the collective action needed to create better recruitment and work experiences for migrant workers,” said Karrie Denniston, Senior Director, Walmart Foundation. “This work also will enhance options for employers and farmers to address social risks, ultimately leading to a future where responsible recruitment is the norm. We are proud to support Stronger Together to provide the resources, connectivity, and data needed to work toward that goal.”

Stronger Together has been promoting responsible business practices to reduce the risk of forced labor in the agricultural sector and beyond for more than 5 years.” Said Jantine Werdmüller von Elgg, Stronger Together Managing Director, “Thanks to the Walmart Foundation and together with our program partners, we can apply our proven model of industry-wide change to the US and enable both businesses and their workers to benefit from a more transparent and ethical recruitment system.”

Stronger Together invites agricultural businesses and organizations working with migrant communities to get involved. Register your interest and find out more here:  www.stronger2gether.org/us | [email protected]

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