¡Sí se puede! Coalition of Immokalee Workers announces another victory in penny-per-pound agreement with Whole Foods

Fellow workers,

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based union in Central Florida that has been winning a series of remarkable victories on wages and conditions for Florida farmworkers, with no government recognition and through the creative use of secondary boycotts and other forms wildcat unionism, has just announced another major victory in the struggle. After the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ hard-won victory in the struggle to make Burger King sign on to the penny-per-pound passthrough agreement, here’s what C.I.W. organizer Lucas Benitez had to say about the future of the campaign:

Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Social responsibility in this country’s food industry is inevitable, and though the exploitation of Florida’s farmworkers remains unconscionable today, company by company we are building a path toward justice. The next steps are up to those companies that stand before us in the road ahead.

There are companies — like Chipotle in the restaurant world and Whole Foods in the grocery industry — that already make claims to social responsibility yet, when it comes to tomatoes, fall far short of their lofty claims. It is time, now, that those companies live out the true meaning of their marketers’ words.

And there are companies — like Subway and WalMart — that, by the sheer volume of their purchases, profit like few others from the pernicious poverty of workers in Florida’s fields. They, too, must step up now. After eight years of this campaign — and the very public commitment of the three largest fast-food companies in the world to the principles of Fair Food — they can no longer claim ignorance of the problem nor can they say that the solution is not possible.

So to all of you who have marched with us, organized petition drives with us, prayed with us, and struggled with us, today is a day to celebrate this hard-fought victory. Tomorrow, with renewed energy and purpose, we begin our work again to make respect for fundamental human rights in Florida’s tomato fields truly universal.

— Lucas Benitez, quoted in Coalition of Immokalee Workers Breaking News (2008-06-09): The Road Ahead in the Campaign for Fair Food!

And yesterday, the C.I.W. announced the first victory in these new campaigns: they have won an agreement for Whole Foods to participate in the penny-per-pound campaign, and to begin crafting purchasing standards for labor conditions in the fields.

Whole Foods Market Signs Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to Support Penny-per-Pound Tomato Program in Florida

Company Also Exploring Program to Help Guarantee Ethical Sourcing and Production in the U.S.

AUSTIN, TX (September 9, 2008) – Whole Foods Market, the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Florida-based farm worker organization spearheading the growing Campaign for Fair Food, announced today that the two will work in partnership to help improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers.

According to an agreement signed this week, Whole Foods Market will support the CIW’s penny-per-pound approach for tomatoes purchased from Florida, with the goal of passing these additional funds on to the harvesters.

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.

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.

Additionally, Whole Foods Market is exploring the creation of a domestic purchasing program to help guarantee transparent, ethical and responsible sourcing and production, using the company’s existing Whole Trade Guarantee program as a model. Whole Trade Guarantee, a third-party verified program, ensures that producers and laborers in developing countries get an equitable price for their goods in a safe and healthy working environment. The goal is to purchase Florida tomatoes from growers that will implement a similar program. We are especially excited about working with the CIW to develop this domestic Whole Trade-type program, said Christensen.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers Press Release (2008-09-09): Whole Foods Market Signs Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to Support Penny-per-Pound Tomato Program in Florida

This is a big win, and it’s hardly the end. The C.I.W. is still fighting to get an agreement Chipotle; there’s a lot more yet to come.

Fellow workers, the C.I.W.’s series of inspiring victories for creative extremism and wildcat unionism are both an inspiration and a reminder. We should never forget that the workers have more power standing with our hands in our pockets than all the wealth and weapons of the plutocrats and politicians. Yes, we can do it—ourselves. And we will.

¡La lucha siguevictory to the farmworkers!

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— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at bleedingheartlibertarians.com

    Why Libertarians Should Oppose Sweatshops | Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

    […] remaining profitable – otherwise strikes, particularly strikes on the Immokalee model (see here and here, and broader reflections here), would never succeed – and Adam Smith’s […]

— 2014 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-01-28 – Welcome, Reasoners:

    […] GT 2008-09-10: Coalition of Immokalee Workers announces another victory in penny-per-pound agreement… […]

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