The Campaign for Fair Foods comes to Boston

Beatrice Bell
Spare Change News

Recently I went to a protest outside of Trader Joe’s on Boylston Street across from the Hynes Convention Center. I didn’t know what to expect. What I learned was very interesting.

Immokalee Farms, which is located in Florida, grows tomatoes for Trader Joes, Stop & Shop, McDonald’s, Subway and Whole Foods and four other companies. Of the nine companies, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Stop & Shop and Whole foods have agreed to an agreement to pay one-penny-per-pound more to increase the wages of the farm workers, and to adhere to a code of conduct protecting workers. Trader Joe’s hasn’t made up its mind yet.

I found the protest to be very enlightening. I learned that Florida is the only place in the USA that can grow tomatoes all year round and they ship them internationally around the world in the cold months, during the fall and winter. I also learned that in comparison to other jobs, that farmworkers receive a lower minimum wage for agricultural workers simply because that’s how the laws were/are written.

A regular worker in Massachusetts might get about $8.25 an hour. An agricultural worker gets only $3 an hour. Think about it people: $3 an hour when without the agricultural workers of the world we wouldn’t have any food to eat.

Most of the protestors at the Immokalee Farmers were shouting in Spanish and English:

1 penny more or 1 cent more while shaking cans.
What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!
NO MORE SLAVES PAY A LIVING WAGE!
Tell me what Democracy looks like! This is what Democracy looks like!!

While at the protest I spoke to a few of the protesters. One person summed up the reason for the protest as follows:

(Beatrice) What brought you here today?
(Protester) “I work with Religious Communities in Eastern Massachusetts and this is a straightforward matter of Justice and Human Dignity. That these people should be paid such a very minor request is not going to bankrupt anyone, not the consumer, not the grower and not the distributor; so such a meager thing tugs at our heartstrings. You see these children of God suffering because they can’t make a living. Honestly, everyone should be able to live. I don’t know why they can’t get the same wages as anyone else.”

(Beatrice) Looks like we got a new friend.
(Stranger on street) What’s this?
(Beatrice) It’s a protest of Trader Joe’s because Trader Joe’s is paying below minimum wage for the Immokalee Farm Workers that grow the tomatoes.
(Protester) “The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is an organization of farm and mineral workers that provides all the major grocery chains with tomatoes because they pretty much won’t grow anywhere else in the winter. Their wages have been established since the 1970s. They’re part of a major campaign to get major food companies that used to pay minimum to pay 1 cent more to elevate the wage of workers. Agricultural workers are under a very special statute set of labor laws that was instituted back in the early 1900s. So they operate under different standards. They can be paid purely off of production instead of hourly. The laws behind what you pay for produce is based on the current market value. There are none of the same safety nets for the market value of produce or for hourly
wages.”

(Stranger on street) Are you protesting any other stores?
(Protester) “In February we were doing Stop & Shop and its parent company located in Quincy. We’re still working on Stop & Shop. Whole Foods and Shaw’s is next on our list. So far none of the major grocery stores have signed on but the fast food restaurants McDonald’s, Wendy’s and etc., have agreed to go into the program to increase pay by 1 cent more.”
(Beatrice) That sounds good. Everybody is always complaining about the fast food restaurants; but on a few occasions something happens differently.

Since the protest I have learned: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) an internationally – recognized Florida farmworker organization has reached groundbreaking agreements with nine of the world’s leading food retailers, including McDonald’s, Subway and Whole Foods. Through these Fair Food agreements, these corporations are paying one more penny per pound for the tomatoes they buy directly to the workers who picked them and have established a stringent, worker – designed code of conduct in their tomato supply chains. In addition, recent historic agreements established between the CIW’s and major tomato growers promise to apply the CIW’s Fair Food standards to virtually the entire Florida tomato industry.

If you want to learn more about Immokalee visit WWW.CIW-ONLINE.ORG

BEATRICE BELL is a Spare Change News writer and vendor.

Beatrice Bell is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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