Early this week, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) announced the “HUGE news” that Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the largest tomato growers in the nation, has agreed to the Coalitions’ demands that workers be paid a penny more per pound for the tomatoes they harvest. This agreement will result in nearly doubling wages for tomato pickers and will implement crucial measures for improving health and safety conditions for workers in the Pacific Tomato Growers’ fields.
This is indeed a huge victory for the hundreds of affected workers, and “a landmark agreement” in an industry that has had a consistently grim track record in its treatment of workers. The agreement is by no means a lucky breakthrough for the CIW, but instead the result of a tirelessly fought, and smartly strategized campaign organized by the Coalition over the past decade. It is an exciting sign that momentum is building around the Coalition’s work and that their efforts are coming to fruition in increasingly large ways. Their work gained notoriety after a 5 year boycott of Taco Bell ended in the fast food giant Taco Bell agreeing to pay a penny more per pound for its tomatoes. The Coalition’s rate of success has sped up since the 2005 Taco Bell victory. In the following five years, McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods, and Subway followed suit in committing to the CIW’s demands. This newest agreement is an important addition to the fast food agreements. Pacific Tomato Growers now joins East Coast growers and two small organic producers, as the first growers to sign with the Coalition and play the important role of distributing the penny more per pound paid by large food corporations to farm workers. These growers have also signed onto a code of conduct, which guarantees basic workplace rights such as the following:
-Workers will be paid for every hour worked, with a system of clocking in/out to accurately record working hours
-Workers will have the ability to voice their concerns over safety and working conditions, and report Code violations, without fear of retribution
-Suppliers will allow education of workers as to their rights on company time and within the worksite by the CIW
The local food movement often employs the slogan “vote with your dollar”. The CIW’s work reveals that meaningful gains for farm worker rights can also be found in the market place, in changing how profit is distributed along the supply chain. However, this shift is not dependent solely upon making the right choice when selecting tomatoes from your grocery shelves. It takes a good fight to ensure fairly produced food is even an available option. The CIW’s current fight is working to ensure the largest grocery chains across the country also commit to passing along the penny more per pound to the people who pick the tomatoes we buy.
To learn how to support the Coalitions’ grocery store campaigns, visit:
To read more details about the recent Pacific Tomato Growers’ agreement, read: