When the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, representing more than 90% of Florida’s tomato growers, agreed to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food principles last month, it seemed the workers’ struggles for fair pay and working conditions were nearly over. But there are still some holdouts.
On November 15, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) for an increase in pay of a penny a pound and fair working conditions in the fields. The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is an organization representing more than 90% of Florida tomato growers.
The agreement was the culmination of a ten-year struggle for workers’ rights. The penny a pound raise they asked for was the first raise in pay in thirty years.
Unfortunately, there are still nearly ten percent of tomato growers who do not agree with the Fair Food principles. They may not feel they need to when major supermarket chain Publix says conditions in the tomato fields don’t matter.
Publix spokesperson Dwaine Stevens said they couldn’t get involved with labor issues over every product they sell. “If there are some atrocities going on, it’s not our business. Maybe it’s something the government should get involved with.”
As consumers, we do have a responsibility to choose products that align with our values. I don’t believe we carry guilt for those things we don’t know about, but once we do know there are ethical problems with the production of certain goods – as Publix seems to realize there are ethical problems in the Florida tomato fields – then we do have a responsibility.
Publix could simply choose to do business with those growers who follow Fair Food principles. That’s now over 90% of tomato growers.
CIW is organizing a protest for March. Hopefully, Publix will come around before then. It seems a simple thing to change.
Image by hermanturnip, used with Creative Commons license.