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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dear Stop + Shop: Please work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW).

Photo by Coalition of Immokalee Workers
This is another day when the post that I planned to write will have to wait.

I just read an article stating that on Friday, Chipotle  agreed to sign on to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers(CIW) Fair Food Program.

The CIW is a membership-led farmworker organization of mostly Latino, Haitian and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. They have been organizing in the town of Immokalee since 1993 and have a base of nearly 4,000 members.

The Fair Food Program (FFP) is "a unique farmworker- and consumer-driven initiative consisting of a wage increase supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchasers of Florida tomatoes, and a human-rights-based Code of Conduct, applicable throughout the Florida tomato industry."

The Fair Food Program requires that:
  1. Consumers demand the highest ethical standards for food production;
  2. Food retailers use their tremendous buying power both to demand higher labor standards of their suppliers and help raise farmworkers out of poverty through a price that supports sustainable production;
  3. Growers continuously improve their operations and meet consumer demand, keeping pace with an evolving marketplace, and,
  4. Farmworkers help expose and fix the worst abuses and apply their unique knowledge toward modernizing, and humanizing, our farm labor system.
This seems more than reasonable to me. It's great news that Chipotle has signed on with the CIW and shows that they really do believe in food with integrity.

I've written before about our food system. There needs to be fairness at each and every point. Not just because fairness is a good thing, but it's healthier for all of us. If the farmworker who picks the food and/or the server who prepares our food is treated badly, has to work when they are sick, and cannot see a doctor for treatment, that's not good for any of us. This is a formula for an unhealthy food system that will result in the spread of disease to the consumer through food consumption.

So we the consumers can take matters into our own hands. First we can recognize companies that are doing good and support them over companies that are not. I may not necessarily support and agree with everything about these companies, but at the very least, I feel good about the tomatoes that they are using.

Since 2008, many of the major players in the food industry have done the right thing and  signed on with the CIW. See the list below.

Taco Bell
McDonald's
Burger King
Whole Foods
Subway
Bon App├ętit Co.
Compass Group
Aramark
Sodexo
Trader Joe's
Chipotle

Now the campaign is shifting to the supermarket industry.  Kroger, Ahold (parent company of Stop & Shop & Giant), and Publix are being asked to step up as well and do the right thing by signing on to the Fair Food Campaign.

I live in Quincy, Massachusetts, which is where Stop + Shop is headquartered. In the spring, the CIW came here and rallied to support their cause. So far, Stop + Shop still refuses to work with them.

I've been a Stop + Shop customer for a very very long time. And as a customer, I am asking Stop + Shop to reconsider and sign on with the Fair Food Campaign. Please take a look at this for more information. Below are some of the reasons why this is such an important issue.
Tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The average piece rate today is 50 cents for each 32-lbs. bucket of tomatoes picked, a rate that has changed little since 1980. 

As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick more than 2.25 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday.

In the most extreme conditions, farmworkers have been held against their will and forced to work for little or no pay, facing conditions that meet the stringent legal standards for prosecution under modern-day slavery statutes.

The CIW has assisted Federal Civil Rights officials in successfully prosecuting six slavery operations involving over 1,000 workers in Florida’s fields since 1997, prompting one federal prosecutor to call Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” Since 1997, a total of nine such slavery operations have been prosecuted.
Hopefully many of you in the New England area, especially those of you who are food bloggers, or just concerned people, will make your voices heard to Stop + Shop.

Those of you who live in places where the other targeted supermarkets are located, please do the same. We can make a difference if we all act together. 


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5 comments:

JDee said...

This is such a special post. I really commend you for speaking out on this. I also know which places to continue to patronize due to their support of CIW. Thanks again!

Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ said...

I'm not surprised Chipotle would sign on but that list is still very short!! There are huge national food stores that need to understand the vitality of maintaining a healthy food system. Beyond fair pricing and equality for our farmers, it affects poverty and hunger. It's an ugly cycle.

Lisa Johnson said...

jdee - Welcome! Good to hear that you'll use this list!

bren - The list is pretty short. Hopefully many (or at least some) are not on the list, because they are already paying a fair price for their tomatoes. It is an ugly cycle. Hopefully this is a way to end it.

Chrysta said...

Like many social justice movements, fair labor will take much time. What helps catalyze these movements are people writing about the pertinent issues. Thanks for bringing this topic back to the forefront. -Chrysta

Lisa Johnson said...

chrysta - Welcome! Thanks for your visit and support. It's much appreciated.

 
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