In a step forward, grocery chain Trader Joe’s today signed the Fair Food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based organization that works to improve conditions and wages for farmworkers. According to the CIW website, “The goal of the Fair Food Program is to promote the development of a sustainable Florida tomato industry that advances both the human rights of farmworkers and the long-term interests of Florida tomato growers.” The organization’s Campaign for Fair Food focuses on enlisting leading food retailers to demand more humane labor standards from tomato suppliers in Florida. Florida accounts for about 44 percent of the U.S. fresh tomato market.
Trader Joe’s joins Taco Bell, Sodexo, McDonald’s and Whole Foods, among others, in signing the agreement since the campaign began in 2001. Trader Joe’s agreed to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes, and will comply with the CIW’s Fair Food code, which guarantees better working conditions for farm laborers. An article in the Atlantic last October estimated that compliance with the Fair Food program would cost Trader Joe’s $30,000 a year; the additional penny per pound would raise workers’ pay from $50 to $80 a day on average.
Activists that had planned actions against Trader Joe’s this month are now encouraging customers to thank the store for signing the agreement. The grocery chain’s other Real Food efforts include:
- Sourcing all products in their private label from non-genetically modified (GMO) ingredients since 2001.
- Committing to a goal that all their seafood purchases will be from sustainable sources by the end of this year.
On to Publix…
With Trader Joe’s on board, the CIW’s work goes on. Next month they are planning a public Fast for Fair Food aimed at getting the Publix supermarket chain to sign on to the Fair Food agreement. Some 50 farmworkers and their allies plan to come together for a six-day fast to draw attention to farmworkers’ rights that will culminate in a march on the Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland, Florida on 10 March.
Image: Guilt-free tomatoes. Photo by burgundavia, Creative Commons license.