Trader Joe’s, the urban cheap chic grocery, is considered to be one of the worlds most ethical companies to join the Fair Food program is ducking out on their own tomato supplier and its farmworkers rights. The supplier has its own program to make sure the farmworkers are treated and paid fairly, Coalition of Immakolee Workers CIW have their own Fair Food program to make sure standards for the workers are met.
CIW has started a protest, in southwest Florida, to give their farmworkers a voice and to get rid of the slave rates that they are employed by now for increases in their pay rates. A flyer distributed by CIW asserts that “Farmworkers picking tomatoes for Trader Joe’s chain of supermarkets earn 40-50 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they harvest.” That wage, which CIW says has not increased since 1978, causes workers to live in a state of perpetual poverty and vulnerability to exploitation from employers.
Trader Joe’s says that the minimal standards are being met by them, but there is no one accounting to verify these standards are being met by Trader Joe’s, except Trader Joe’s themselves, not a good sign. Trader Joe’s continues to avoid the issue of exploitation in its tomato supply chain, claiming that, “At Trader Joe’s, we work with reputable suppliers that have a strong record of providing safe and healthy work environments and we will continue to make certain that our vendors are meeting if not exceeding government standards throughout all aspects of their businesses.”
A tomato farmworker from Immokalee, Oscar O., is traveling with the CIW “to present the picture, so people would understand the reality and help us in this campaign,” he said, ” the extreme case of being locked in a truck overnight, but conditions are bad, there are constant abuses, low salaries, about 10-15 minutes to eat and there are no benefits.” He makes about $40 for a 10-12-hour day, “enduring the daily heat.” When he was sick and took time off to go to the doctor, he lost his job.
The benchmark agreement between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an internationally recognized workers’ organization based in southwest Florida, and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) will cover over ninety percent of the state’s tomato farms and improve pay and conditions for 30,000 farmworkers. The industry is responsible for nearly all fresh tomatoes grown in the U.S. between November and June.
How is that, for increasing the good vibrations that are put into the food that you eat?
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