Hollywood Farmers Market: Tomatoes

After years of nudges, calls to action and protests, grocery chain Trader Joe's has finally signed on to the Fair Food Agreement. Spearheaded by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, it's a major step forward in the decadelong campaign to improve working conditions for pickers in Florida, where nearly a third of the tomatoes that Americans eat are grown.

Trader Joe's is only the second grocery chain, after Whole Foods, to sign the agreement, although several major industrial and fast food chains including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Sodexo and Aramark have already come aboard.

Picking tomatoes is a physically exhausting job with no health benefits, overtime or sick pay. The agreement gives workers a raise from $50 to $80 a day and assures them basic rights like accurate timecards, a clearly defined grievance process, safety education and protection from violence and sexual harassment in the fields.

As Barry Estabrook, author of the book Tomatoland and the blog Politics of the Plate, wrote in Zester Daily back in June:

If you harvest Florida tomatoes, it's the difference between making… a wage that doesn't allow you to properly feed and shelter your family and a livable, albeit paltry, income.

The CIW, a farmworkers' rights organization, is hoping the action by Trader Joe's will persuade other supermarket chains and major produce buyers to sign the Fair Food Agreement.

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