Trader Joes and Tomatoes and Slavery

Posted: December 19, 2011 in human trafficking, modern slavery

Southwest Florida has been called “ground zero for modern slavery”, in part due to the tomato industry and its use of underpaid and mistreated workers, including slaves.  (Zester Daily, June 2011)  I don’t know if “ground zero” is a proper characterization when considering all of the areas of the world, sex trafficking, bonded labor, child soldiers, and so on.  Still, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is working hard to improve conditions for farmworkers in the Florida region. Their work, including the Campaign for Fair Food has influenced companies like Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and others to pay more for their tomatoes in order to increase wages for Florida tomato pickers.

Trader Joes has resisted the pressure so far to sign on to the CIW agreement.  Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland, a book about large-scale tomato agriculture, has written about the CIW efforts online in the Politics of the Plate.  His June 2011 article in the Zester Daily highlighted Trader Joes’ refusal to sign onto the Campaign for Fair Food.  Trader Joes posted statements on the TJ web site in May and October 2011 explaining their position.  The CIW issued their statement explaining why they believe Trader Joes is still wrong.   Will you buy tomatoes from Trader Joes as a result of knowing the company, which prides itself on caring about “what matters,” is unwilling to sign onto a verifiable and transparent agreement?  Will you shop at TJ’s at all until they agree?  Whole Foods is an alternative, and they have agreed to the CIW campaign.

  1. […] of trafficked labor are made public in the media (as has happened with shrimp sold by Walmart and tomatoes from Trader Joe’s), shoppers can resist the cheap goods and stop supporting companies that are in some way complicit […]

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