Trader Joe’s tends to have a reputation of being a friendlier, cooler grocery chain – that said, for years the chain has been at odds with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), who pick the fresh tomatoes that most restaurants, franchises, and grocery stores sell on a daily basis. The CIW has been working toward improved working conditions and pay, enlisting prominent chains to sign a Fair Food agreement pledging to work alongside the CIW for better conditions. To date, the array of chains who have signed the agreement range from Taco Bell and McDonald’s to Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, chose for a long time to avoid the issue. But after public disapproval and picketing, Trader Joe’s is getting with the program – the CIW announced this week that Trader Joe’s has signed an agreement with the coalition to support its Fair Food Program.
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The requirements of the CIW Fair Food Program are so simple and straightforward that it seems peculiar to resist complying with it. Working toward labor reform, the program combines a code of conduct for agricultural suppliers, a pledge of transparency, and a small price premium on tomatoes of a penny per pound – an amount that most Trader Joe’s customers can afford to spare on a package of high-lycopene tomatoes, and can make a big cumulative difference in the lives of tomato farm workers.
But the important thing is that Trader Joe’s has signed up now: better late than never. “We are truly happy today to welcome Trader Joe’s aboard the Fair Food Program,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW in a press release from the organization. “Trader Joe’s is cherished by its customers for a number of reasons, but high on that list is the company’s commitment to ethical purchasing practices. With this agreement, Trader Joe’s reaffirms that commitment and sends a strong – and timely – message of support to the Florida growers who are choosing to do the right thing, investing in improved labor standards, despite the challenges of a difficult marketplace and tough economic times.”