Whole Foods, following in the footsteps of Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonalds, agreed this week to become the first grocery chain to improve working conditions and pay for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), tomato workers from Florida. Whole Foods will pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes, and will work in conjunction with the CIW to establish modern working standards for its agricultural workers.
That penny more per pound might not seem like much, but tomato pickers earn about 45 cents for every 32-lb bucket of tomatoes they pick, working almost all daylight hours with no overtime pay. The 45-cent rate hasn’t changed in nearly 30 years. As a result, farmworker wages fall beneath the federal poverty level. The CIW has been working for farm workers for years, but approached Whole Foods over a year ago to gain their support. “We commend the CIW for their advocacy on behalf of these workers,” said Karen Christensen, Global Produce Coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “After carefully evaluating the situation in Florida, we felt that an agreement of this nature was in line with our core values and was in the best interest of the workers.” The CIW is a community-based farmworkers advocacy group with over 4,000 members. Their Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for farm labor reforms from retail food industry leaders, with the goal of utilizing the power of those companies to demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.
“With this agreement, the Campaign for Fair Food has again broken new ground,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “This is not only our first agreement in the supermarket industry but, in working with Whole Foods Market, we have the opportunity to really raise the bar to establish and ensure modern day labor standards and conditions in Florida.”
Whole Foods will also help the CIW establish a domestic purchasing program that mirrors its Whole Trade Guarantee, ensuring transparancy in purchasing and fair and equitable prices and safe, healthy working conditions for producers and laborers.