A while back, I read an article somewhere, in some magazine, maybe Bon Appetit but I really don’t remember, about tomato farmworkers in Florida. The exploitation they suffered made an impression, but after bopping around the globe such things tend to slip to the back of the mind…
…but someone’s tweet the other day reminded me of their struggle and the progress they’ve made; specifically, that Whole Foods, Burger King, McDonald’s, Yum Foods, and other huge corporations have signed agreements locking them into paying just a penny or so more per pound of tomatoes, which in turn makes the difference between abject and unsustainable poverty and a livable, if meager, daily wage for these farmworkers. But some major brands — such as Trader Joe’s — have flat-out refused to sign agreements with the workers, subjecting them to an indefinite period of what amounts to indentured servitude, if not slavery.
Thinking about this in the car this morning, I got motivated to do something. Trader Joe’s is interesting because as a privately held (and very private) company, they don’t have shareholder members of the public to answer to, so the only path to change is through collective consumer action. I’ll make no bones about it, I don’t like Trader Joe’s anyway, and I have a particular grudge against the Portland location. (Noticing this now: apparently they have plans to open in Florida, which seems an incredibly gutsy and possibly offensive move.)
But personal feelings aside, I do think it is egregious that Trader Joe’s refuses the workers’ demands.
I know they’re all about their low costs, but what consumer wouldn’t be willing to pay a few cents more? Would anyone even notice the change? And if they knew their few extra cents were going to support the very livelihood of the people who grew and harvested the tomatoes, would it even matter?
ANYWAY, the point of this story is that the CIW is doing a protest tour of the northeast and will be protesting at Trader Joe’s in Portland, Maine on Friday, August 12, at 6 pm.