On 16 November, a domino fell in Florida – and what a sound it made.
After 15 years of negotiations, the Florida Tomato Growers’ Exchange (FTGE) signed a fair food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), guaranteeing
- a strict code of conduct,
- a cooperative complaint resolution system,
- a participatory health and safety program, and
- a worker-to-worker education process.
But as Lucas Benitez of the CIW cautioned, “This is the beginning, not the end, of a very long journey.” CIW has reason to be suspicious of this industry giant, which in 2007 argued that an extra penny-per-pound for farmworkers was illegal. In 2005 FTGE instituted its own “independent” labor standard called Socially Accountable Farm Employers (SAFE); and yet in 2007, two SAFE-certified growers were tainted by slavery. That’s why CIW fought for fifteen years for an inclusive farmworker code of conduct: to ensure a system that works.
Now, CIW is tackling the last link in the supply chain: supermarkets like Stop and Shop, Kroger, and Wal-Mart that buy huge quantities of tomatoes and have the market power to pay the extra penny-per-pound. It’s only a matter of time before these last dominoes topple. And you can help speed the process and bring justice to Florida’s farmworkers – just write a letter to your local grocery store!
By the numbers
$619 million – how much Florida’s tomatoes are worth.
90% – the proportion of US tomatoes grown in Florida between December and May.
90% – the proportion of Florida tomatoes produced by the FTGE.
2.5 tons – how many tomatoes you had to pick in a 10-hour day to make minimum wage before the penny-per-pound agreement.
1.5 tons – how many you have to pick now.
Timeline: the Campaign for Fair Food
2005 Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s)