The same statement, which the company has posted as a letter to customers on its website, hails Fair Food as "a groundbreaking approach to social responsibility in the U.S. produce industry that combines the Fair Food Code of Conduct...with a small price premium to help improve harvesters' wages." Trader Joe's did not respond to a request for further comment.
Trader Joe’s' reversal follows a months-long campaign. As Michelle Chen has reported for In These Times, it included "Trader Joe’s tours” last summer that picketed stores, educated consumers, and met with allies along the East and West Coasts.
In Boston, a group of fifth graders organized a rally outside a store. In New York, activists held a 1.6 mile run between two stores. The announcement of the settlement came on the eve of two planned days of coordinated protest pegged to the grand opening of Trader Joe’s' first-ever Florida location. That store, the company’s 367th, is located on Immokalee Road in Naples, 35 miles from the fields where the CIW was born.
CIW is a workers’ organization that partners with faith, labor, and consumer groups to push improvements in farm workers’ working conditions and voice on the job. It’s part of a growing trend of labor activism that takes place outside of the protections and restrictions of the National Labor Relations Act. CIW’s Trader Joe’s agreement is the latest in a series of victories achieved through comprehensive campaigns that leverage consumer and media pressure at strategic points in the tomato supply chain.
Whole Foods was the first major supermarket to sign a Fair Food Agreement; Trader Joe’s is the second. Perkins says Trader Joe’s “didn’t agree to anything less” than Whole Foods had in its own agreement. CIW’s next major target is Publix, which has been refusing requests to sign an agreement.
CIW and religious allies have announced a six-day protest fast outside Publix headquarters that will begin March 5. Publix, charges Perkins, is “not just turning their back and refusing to meet with us, but really being a blockade in the road to truly changing conditions for farmworkers.” But she expects Publix will eventually follow Trader Joe’s and Publix in signing on to the Fair Food model. “It’s really the future of the industry.”
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