Take Action: Demand Fair Food from Trader Joe's!
Are your tomatoes picked by slaves?
Since 1997, more than 1000 farmworkers have been freed from slavery in Florida. And by slavery, we mean not getting paid, being kept against one’s will, and in some cases even being chained at night. In other words—slavery. In twenty-first century America. And these 1000 workers are just the tip of the iceberg. One U.S. attorney has called Florida “ground zero” in the fight against slavery in the United States.
Even for the tens of thousands of tomato pickers who do get paid for their efforts, most don’t even earn minimum wage. Workers handle harsh pesticides, which have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. Reports of sexual assault are rampant.
But these workers are fighting hard to change this reality. Through the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), they have persuaded some major fast food restaurants and produce growers to pay a penny more a pound and to institute a zero tolerance policy for slavery and sexual assault. Corporations such as Yum Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut), Burger King, McDonald's and Whole Foods have agreed to sign the Campaign for Fair Food. In the fall of 2010, most of Florida's tomato growers agreed to raise the price they paid to workers by one penny a pound if the retailers agree to pay this penny, and also agreed to the ethical conduct standards proposed by the CIW. But Trader Joe's has not yet agreed to sign a Fair Food Agreement.
Every year, at Passover, we remember the Jewish experience of slavery. We say: “We were slaves to Pharaoh, now we are free.” This legacy informs our moral imperative to fight modern slavery and uphold the right of every individual to be free.
Updated: Why hasn't Trader Joe's signed a Fair Food Agreement?
On October 21, 2011, Trader Joe’s released a statement saying that they would not sign the Agreement, even though they agreed with it in principle and had implemented the basic requirements already. They said, essentially, “trust us, we’re doing it right”, but this is unverifiable. Without signing the agreement, Trader Joe’s has no way of knowing if the growers they’re purchasing from meet CIW’s standards; TJ’s would have to rely on the grower’s word alone, and what grower is going to volunteer the fact that they don’t treat their workers fairly or pay their workers a reasonable wage? A Fair Food Agreement, with independent monitoring, is the gold standard in creating an ethical supply chain. Trader Joe's, we expect more!