Grocery Store Giant Commits to Fairer Wages for Farm Laborers

Grocery Store Giant Commits to Fairer Wages for Farm Laborers

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This summer, the parent company of Giant, Stop & Shop, and Peapod, Koninklijke Ahold NV joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program, in one swoop increasing the number of U.S grocery stores carrying Fair Food tomatoes by 75 percent. Winner of the Presidential Medal in 2015 for year for its groundbreaking work in social responsibility, the CIW Fair Food Program is “a partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms.” Other Clean Yield portfolio companies that participate in the program include Chipotle (joined in 2012) and Whole Foods (2008).

In 2001, the CIW initiated a boycott of Taco Bell demanding the parent company Yum! Brands pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes purchased. Tomato pickers are paid by piece rate, and at the going rate of 50 cents per bucket a worker would need to pick around 5,000 pounds of tomatoes each day to earn minimum wage. In 2005 the CIW won its first victory when Yum! Brands agreed to pay a penny more per pound for their tomatoes. As a direct result farmworkers wages almost doubled. As the penny-a-pound campaign gained traction, the CIW launched the Fair Food Program in 2010 to fully encompass worker rights including enforcement mechanisms.

Greg Asbed, co-founder of the CIW told Truthout.org in 2013 that,“Farm labor wages could be increased 100% and the consumer wouldn’t even notice the difference. We call it the ‘reverse princess and the pea principle’: change can be felt at the bottom of the food industry with an imperceptible change at the top.”

Other companies that have signed on to the Fair Food Program include Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, Walmart, and food-service companies Bon Appétit, Compass Group, Aramark, and Sodexo. Since the program’s inception nearly $20 million of fair food premiums have been passed along to farm workers.

Participation in the program means that Ahold will purchase only CIW tomatoes, pay a premium for them (that is passed along to the field workers), and collaborate with the CIW to conduct farm audits. In addition Ahold will support the Fair Food Program both financially and through promotional campaigns. Through Ahold’s participation, worker-certified Fair Food tomatoes will reach 50 million new customers in nearly 780 new stores in 14 states.

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