For Immediate Release
Florida Tomato Pickers, Students, Faith and Community Allies to March to Trader Joe's Corporate Headquarters; Call on Company to Live up to Reputation as “Ethical Retailer”
Farmworkers, consumers urge Trader Joe's to support groundbreaking Fair Food Program, human rights for the men and women who harvest the company's tomatoes
IMMOKALEE, Fla. - On Friday, October 21, after a noon picket at the Huntington Plaza Trader Joe's, Florida farmworkers and their student, faith and community allies will march to Trader Joe's corporate headquarters for the largest CIW rally in California since the successful conclusion of the Taco Bell Boycott.
Farmworkers and consumers will gather at the fast-growing company's headquarters to express their growing impatience with Trader Joe's refusal to participate in the widely-acclaimed Fair Food Program and will call on the company to agree to partner with the CIW to ensure supply chain transparency and verifiable, durable, and enforceable improvements in the company's tomato supply chain.
Events on October 21st include:
Noon: Participants will gather outside of Trader Joe's at 604 W. Huntington Dr., Monrovia
12:30 PM: Mile-long march heads east on Huntington Ave.
1 PM: Creative action & major rally at Trader Joe's corporate headquarters at 800 S. Shamrock Ave.
“Trader Joe's has fiercely resisted the Campaign for Fair Food with public relations spin designed to create confusion,” said CIW member Oscar Otzoy. “But the facts are clear. To date, Trader Joe's refuses to sign a Fair Food agreement with the CIW. And without this binding agreement, there can be no supply chain transparency, no third-party verification, and no enforcement of the Code of Conduct.”
Otzoy continued, “Trader Joe's makes many claims – that it will only buy from Florida tomato growers abiding by the Fair Food Code of Conduct; that it is already paying a penny per pound 'Fair Food Premium' to improve tomato pickers wages. But we have seen no proof of that, and until Trader Joe's agrees to work with the CIW – as nine leading food corporations have already done – those claims are just words. Absent a concrete commitment on the part of Trader Joe's, we can only assume that these claims are designed to defuse a groundswell of public protest, and would last only as long as that protest remains a problem for Trader Joe's carefully-crafted public image.”
Damara Luce of Just Harvest USA, an organization of consumer allies supporting the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food, adds, “Trader Joe's refusal to work with the CIW puts the company squarely at the rear of the retail food industry when it comes to progressive purchasing policies – behind Whole Foods, behind McDonald's and Subway, behind even Yum Brands. Hardly where you'd expect to find one of the ‘world's most ethical companies.’ For conscientious consumers working in alliance with farmworkers for a just and sustainable food system, the continuing public relations antics and hypocrisy on the part of Trader Joe's will only further intensify our call for justice.”
In an accord the New York Times calls “possibly the most successful labor action in the U.S. in 20 years,” the CIW and 90% of Florida's tomato farms have agreed to a new code of conduct that promises to bring about an unprecedented transformation of farm labor wages and working conditions.
With the support of nine multi-billion dollar retail food corporations – among them McDonald's, Burger King, Bon Appétit Management Company, and Trader Joe's competitor Whole Foods Market – over 30,000 farmworkers will begin to see concrete changes in the fields this season, including assured access to shade, the right to report abuses without fear or retaliation, the ability to form health and safety committees in the fields, zero-tolerance provisions for forced labor, and a wage increase funded by a penny-per-pound premium paid by participating retailers.
Yet Trader Joe's – despite unverifiable claims to the contrary – refuses to pay the Fair Food Program’s one penny more per pound premium for tomatoes to help increase farmworker wages, and has not agreed to condition its purchases on suppliers' compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. With fast-food and foodservice leaders on board, as well as competitor Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's continued rejection of the Campaign for Fair Food threatens to undermine these historic yet fragile gains.
With more than $8 billion in sales last year, Trader Joe's is quickly emerging as a leader in the U.S. supermarket industry. In no small part, its rapid growth is tied to consumer perception that Trader Joe's is a progressive retailer with an ethical supply chain.
Resources for March and Rally at Trader Joe's Headquarters:
"The True Cost of Tomatoes" by Mark Bittman (New York Times, 6/14/11)
"The Profound Impact of a Penny" by Barry Estabrook (Zester Daily, 6/6/11)
"Tomatoes of Wrath" by Chris Hedges (9/26/11)