Tomato truck

Trader Joe’s, the Monrovia, CA grocery store chain has come under fire for its lack of support of the Fair Food Program, a campaign initiated by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) of Florida that supports more than 30,000 workers responsible for picking nearly one third of all the tomatoes eaten in America.

The CIW’s initiative intends to raise the price of tomatoes by only one-cent per pound to support the workers who pick the fruits. The hard physical labor comes with no health benefits, overtime or sick pay and the extra income is designed to improve their income and quality of life. For a Florida tomato picker, the difference is between $50 per day versus $80 with the extra penny per pound according to Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland.

With more than 360 stores throughout the U.S., Trader Joe’s is known for its low prices and private label brand of products. And according to the chain, it is already paying a penny-per pound “fair food premium” and has promised to purchase its tomatoes from Florida growers that use the Fair Food Code of Conduct, but, “What we will not do,” says a statement from the company, “is sign an agreement that includes undefined oroverreaching factors such as those in the agreement that has been provided to us by the CIW.”

Whole Foods Market, Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King and Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut), are some of the nation’s major chains that are already supporting the CIW rate increase.

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Image: stevendamron