Protecting Food. Empowering Whistleblowers.

Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Our Roses for Food Whistleblowers

Food Integrity Campaign | July 17, 2023

At Food Integrity Campaign, we celebrate whistleblowers every day through our dedicated work towards their protection. Unfortunately, our nation’s culture does not always reflect the respect and value that it should hold for those who stand up for what is right in the face of adversity and retaliation. That is why July 30th is National Whistleblower Appreciation Day— a day to honor and celebrate everything whistleblowers do for us and how much has changed because of their dedicated efforts. This year, we are teaming up with Government Accountability Project to commit not just the day, but the month of July towards appreciating whistleblowers and we’re starting with asking the White House to create a Rose Garden ceremony for whistleblowers on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

In 1777, before the passage of the Bill of Rights, 10 sailors and Marines blew the whistle on fraud and misconduct that was harmful to the United States. On July 30th, 1778, the Continental Congress passed the first whistleblower legislation in the United States, recognizing these Revolutionary War sailors who spoke out against wrongdoings and abuses by the commander-in-chief of the Navy. Since 2013, Congress has designated July 30th National Whistleblower Appreciation Day to recognize the legacy of whistleblowers, but making this honor permanent would solidify whistleblowers of our past, present, and future as integral forces in our society.

From the events of the Pentagon Papers exposed by national security whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and President Nixon’s illegal and direct efforts to retaliate against Ellsberg, the term “whistleblower” became a way to change the negative public image surrounding those who disclosed information in order to protect the public and ensure government accountability. Since then, whistleblowers have impacted every aspect of our society. If not for the courage of whistleblowers, some of the most significant abuses of public trust would be even greater threats. Our clients have shut down abusive Emergency Intake Sites at the southern border, have taken on huge food industry companies for unsafe and exploitative practices, and even prevented a possible nuclear disaster in our own country.

Unfortunately, the road to whistleblowing is not an easy one, and today whistleblowers only have a group of patchwork laws to try to protect them. For example, long-time Perdue poultry farmer, Rudy Howell, was wrongfully discharged for raising concerns about Perdue’s practices. He witnessed firsthand how the big chicken companies deceptively trap farmers, like him, into a business that makes it near impossible to stay afloat, and then punish farmers if they don’t do exactly what they’re told. Rudy took a big risk to stand up against industry practices that disempower truth-telling farmers. Unfortunately, Rudy was terminated for speaking out. He is now being represented by us, Food Integrity Campaign.

Rudy’s story is a story we see far too often. Even though blowing the whistle is a legally protected right, 46% of people claimed they failed to report wrongdoing because they feared retaliation. In fact, it is the #1 reason many people do not come forward despite knowing it is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, many whistleblowers face the reality of retaliation, which can cause them serious professional, monetary, and even personal losses all because they chose to do the right thing. If we continue to allow our governments, organizations, and companies to continue this trend of silencing those who hold them accountable, they will continue to go unchecked.

This is why it is so important as a society that we speak up about why we value the truth and those who speak it. This Rose Garden Ceremony honoring whistleblowers for their courage and sacrifice would send a loud, clear message that our government leaders appreciate the importance of whistleblowers and retaliation will not be tolerated. It would inspire confidence in those who witness wrongdoing to stand up and do something to fix it.

The revered White House Rose Garden Ceremony has a long history of honoring and bringing attention to the heroes of our society. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy redesigned the garden with the express intent to use it as an event space, and since then the Rose Garden has held court for diplomats, world leaders, astronauts, and many policy announcements spanning multiple administrations. Rose Garden ceremonies bring importance to topics by addressing them head-on and honoring them at the highest level of our government, which in turn spreads to our society as they learn more about why these topics should be acknowledged.

Despite whistleblowing being a non-partisan issue that seems to be supported on both sides of the aisle, there are still many barriers to protect and appreciate them. Senator Grassley sent a letter to President Biden this year calling for a Rose Garden ceremony, writing, “I have asked every president since President Ronald Reagan to hold a Rose Garden ceremony to honor whistleblowers. No president has done so. I hope you will be the first… Instead of being treated like skunks at a picnic, let whistleblowers smell the roses at the White House and bask in the appreciation of a thankful nation well served by their efforts to shine a light on waste, fraud, and abuse.”

This month we are trying to change that through our campaign “Roses for Whistleblowers” leading up to National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. Join us in our efforts to give a Rose Garden ceremony to whistleblowers and to show the country what they mean to our society. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts to learn more about our initiative and to spread the word for the entire month of July and beyond.


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