Fair Wages for Florida's Tomato Farm Workers: CIW's Fair Food Agreement is Transforming the Food Industry

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Immokalee, a small town in southwestern Florida, is home to the USA's tomato industry, sourcing 90% of all tomato production. From small retail shops to large conglomerates, most of the tomatoes sitting in our produce aisles are handpicked by migrant workers in Immokalee.  The community resembles a run-down, migrant work camp where the word sustainability means only one thing: survival. But the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is changing that.  A 'new day' is almost here. 

The CIW, a farm worker-led movement, has been campaigning with large companies to sign a Fair Food Agreement, which would ensure a penny more per pound in wages for farm workers. Taco Bell was the first to sign this agreement in 2005 followed by other large retailers such as McDonalds, Subway, Sodexho, Chipotle and Trader Joes. The agreement is made between the CIW, approved middlemen growers and the company. Other conditions in the agreement include compliance with zero tolerance for forced labor, farm worker education series and ongoing auditing. Currently, the penny more per pound of tomatoes is paid to farm workers as a bonus check. As more companies sign the Fair Food Agreement this bonus check will translate into a living wage. 

The Fair Food Campaign, with supporters across the country, is currently targeting the fast-food chain Wendy's. And this past March, I had the privilege of joining hundreds of farm workers and supporters in the March for Rights as we marched 200 miles from Immokalee to Lakeland to campaign at the headquarters of Florida's leading supermarket chain, Publix. Publix believes that the dispute over wages of farm workers is a 'labor issue' for which they are not responsible. Whole Foods, Aramark, Burger King and many companies have modeled corporate social responsibility by signing the Fair Food Agreement and it's only a short time until fair wages are the norm. A new day is coming.