GFPP: A TOOL FOR WORKER JUSTICE

FCWA is working to end the exploitation of food workers by leveraging the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) as an organizing tool to win fair wages and working conditions in participating supply chains. GFPP’s purpose is to increase access to and demand for high-quality jobs and healthy, sustainably-produced food by using the purchasing power of major institutions.  And this national campaign is expanding across the country.

A QUICK HISTORY  

The GFPP story begins back in 2010 when several FCWA members convened a monthly “procurement” working group to discuss how we might be able to leverage our power in supply chains to improve wages and working conditions in the whole food system, and not just one segment.  Simultaneously, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAPFC) was developing a model food purchasing policy for large public institutions. Since Joann Lo was a LAFPC working group member, she began to drive the conversation towards a set of standards that would include support for member programs and campaigns. Ultimately the Good Food Purchasing Policy emerged as a way to push public supply chains in supporting worker certification programs–like the Equitable Food Initiative and Food Justice Certification–union contracts, and worker-owned cooperatives.  It has become an organizing tool to win good wages, lifting up worker voices, and improving working conditions for workers along the food chain.

The policy was first adopted by the LA Unified School District and the City of Los Angeles in the fall of 2012. Since then, other communities have followed the LA model of winning adoption through a campaign that brings together various sectors of the food movement. Natural allies for GFPP include environmental organizations, animal welfare groups, food justice activists and even public health officials. Furthermore, the Alliance encourages all local coalitions to have at the core of their leadership frontline communities and food workers as well as grassroots organizing capacity. We believe all are necessary for a successful GFPP campaign and to foster worker justice, racial equity, and community sovereignty.   

With interest growing around the U.S., GFPP as a program was spun off from the LAFPC in July 2015. GFPP is now owned and managed by an independent non-profit called the Center for Good Food Purchasing.

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SUPPORT FOR MEMBER CAMPAIGNS

GFPP is built around 5 value categories: nutrition, environmental sustainability, local economies, humane treatment of animals, and valued workforce.  Each category has a tiered set of standards that guides participating institutions along a roadmap for how to implement values-based purchasing over time. The goal is for participating institutions to purchase increasingly more food from vendors and suppliers that reflect our core values. However, GFPP is not a certification for any company.  The intention wasn’t to reinvent the wheel, but rather use GFPP as a platform to support existing programs driven by Alliance members and movement allies.

The GFPP labor standards lean on various certifications, policies like living wage and paid sick days, and worker-driven mechanisms like union contracts and worker-owned cooperatives to provide public institutions with a set of guidelines by which companies comply. Though much debate ensues around which certification is best for workers, we felt that including the ones that were directly connected to worker organizations was a key.  Through a long process with members and allies in which criteria were established to determine on which tier specific certifications or models should fall, it was decided that worker-owned cooperatives and union contracts (on the virtue of being worker-controlled and with a legal framework that ensures the interests of workers are at their core) were included in the top tier. You can see an overview of the program here.

BUILDING WORKER + RACIAL JUSTICE

The Program has had huge impacts, including in Los Angeles where it was first adopted.  GFPP has led to the creation of 220 new well-paying jobs in Los Angeles County and has been leveraged by the Los Angeles coalition to block low-road employers from institutional food contracts.  The local coalition organized and successfully leveraged GFPP to prevent food distribution corporation A&R as well as Tyson from receiving a chicken contract from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) due to their egregious and repeated labor practices (additionally for Tyson, also because their environmental and animal welfare violations). Through phone banking, submitting letters of support, and moving champions and allies, LA Coalition members used the GFPP adoption and its standards to win this victory.

Furthermore, labor partners have leveraged GFPP to protect workers from union-busting tactics. For example, Teamsters Local 63 and Joint Council 42 stopped a local distributor in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s supply chain from intimidating its employees who were seeking union representation–respecting workers’ right to freedom of association is a requirement of participating in GFPP.  As a result, the workers were free to engage in workplace organizing without fear of retaliation, and a majority of the 150 drivers voted in favor of union representation by the Teamsters. Their union contract, won in August of 2016, brought drivers who were being paid $13/hour to a minimum of $19/hour, guaranteed raises over the next three years, and provided important job and safety protections. In January 2018, 170 warehouse workers with the same company won a union contract that guarantees pay raises, protections against unfair treatment and discipline, a voice with management, and a new pay incentive program.  Overall, nearly 400 employees in LA County now have higher wages, better health benefits, and stronger workplace protections. These victories are a testament to strong workplace organizing and the ability to leverage GFPP as a tool for securing increased protections and higher wages for food workers.  

“With a Teamster contract, my family has much more stability,” said Raymond Aviles, a driver for Gold Star. “I can provide for my family and give my kids a better life. It also feels good to be part of an overall program that is better for schools, kids, local farmers and other workers like me.”

In the Oakland Unified School District’s supply chain, Latinx workers employed by Taylor Farms were attempting to organize with the Teamsters while the bosses were firing workers for making OSHA complaints. Because of the extreme anti-union actions of Taylor Farms, the workers called for a boycott of the company. OUSD had no way to address these workplace violations until they passed GFPP.  Workers shed light on the hostile working conditions at Taylors Farm, who OUSD in turn kicked out of their supply chain despite Taylor Farms scoring high on nutrition and environmental sustainability. This gave the workers power to leverage in their workplace organizing campaign while playing a critical role in GFPP enforcement—punishing bad companies while rewarding the good ones. OUSD and the San Francisco Unified School District both adopted GFPP in 2016.

GFPP continues to expand beyond California. Chicago’s county seat, Cook County, became the first county ever to adopt the program (May 2018).  The passage comes on the heels of the previous year’s adoption by the Chicago Public Schools (June), Chicago Parks Department (September), and the City of Chicago (October) — directing close to $325 million annually toward purchasing good food.  This string of successes were made possible by a grassroots Chicago coalition that ensured that GFPP was adapted to local needs and priorities. Thanks to their leadership, the Cook County resolution also prioritizes racial equity in their food procurement contracts that supports workers, communities, and enterprises through such incentives for:

  • Businesses located in and hiring from low-to-moderate income communities and persons with prior arrests and/or prison records;
  • Access to under-utilized and surplus County-owned land and buildings for minority-owned/controlled social enterprises and land trusts for farming and food processing; and,
  • Farms growing organically and using bio-intensive method

GFPP EXPANSION

Critical to GFPP’s success is the building of local coalitions that provide space for those most impacted–including frontline food workers and communities of color–to play a key role in the leadership and ensure the program is adapted to local needs and priorities.  Food Chain Workers Alliance provides direct campaign development support to these grassroots coalitions nationwide, working closely with the Center for Good Food Purchasing, Real Food Media, and HEAL Food Alliance. To date, the Program has been officially adopted by eight institutions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and Chicago, including two of the largest school districts and the second largest county in the country, impacting over $525 million public dollars every year.  Additional coalitions are working to expand GFPP in the Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, New York City, Northwest Arkansas, Washington, DC, and the Twin Cities. As more institutions participate in such a program, the collective impact offers building blocks for the larger transformative change much needed in our food system and in our economy.

Contact us if you would like to learn more and organize to win the adoption of the GFPP in your community!