Falling like dominos

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)

2007 McDonald’s

2008 Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods

2009 Bon Appetit, Alderman Farms, Lady Moon Farms, Compass Group, East Coast Growers and Packers

2010 Aramark, Sodexo, Pacific Tomato Growers, Six L’s, Florida Tomato Growers’ Exchange

2011 Publix? Stop and Shop? Kroger? Giant? Trader Joe’s?

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