Dear Mr. Bane:
As religious leaders from Southern California, we urge Trader Joe’s to sign a Fair Food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW).
Conditions of poverty and lack of rights and cases of modern-day slavery in the fields are everyone’s responsibility. To address these grievous and systemic conditions requires that corporations, growers, farmworkers and consumers all do our part. Business as usual has condemned our sisters and brothers who labor in the fields to suffer needlessly. But there is another way.
Nine major retail food corporations and over 90 percent of Florida growers have signed Fair Food agreements with the CIW. Through these Fair Food agreements food buyers are using their power to elevate wages and advance rights for farmworkers while ensuring transparency and accountability to their customers through a third-party audit.
Trader Joe’s puzzling and misleading public statements about the Fair Food agreements and the company’s attempts to foist responsibility off on their wholesalers illustrates the extent to which Trader Joe’s has not yet even understood the basics. We find this inexcusable given that the CIW has been willing to meet in person with Trader Joe’s, has shared the template of the Code of Conduct, and has an indisputable track record of working conscientiously and successfully with other major corporations. The Fair Food agreements are being implemented now and dramatically improving the lives of farmworkers. That Trader Joe’s would scorn these agreements and their achievements is, frankly, unconscionable.
As people of faith we believe that all people are created by God for good purpose: to dwell justly with one another and to care for all creation. Farmworkers, corporate executives, growers and consumers depend upon another to grow, harvest, sell and obtain the food we need for ourselves and our families. Trader Joe’s has a reputation as an ethical company; it is one of the reason members of our congregations shop at your store. You have an opportunity here to do what is right and good; to make an historic contribution to transforming this part of our food system into one that ensures well-being for all. This is not the first time corporate executives or growers have had to decide what to do. We hope that you will follow the example of Jon Esformes, a principle in Pacific Tomato, when at a press conference he said, “you wake up and you realize that maybe this is something we could have done yesterday, but I am certainly not going to wait until tomorrow.”
Mr. Bane, do not wait. Work now with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to forge a Fair Food agreement of which you, your company and your customers can be proud. Use your power to help rectify rights of farmworkers long trampled that the dawn of a new day in the Florida tomato fields might blaze into bright morning light.
# end #