’09: Letter from Swanton Berry Farm

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing on behalf of Swanton Berry Farm in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ efforts to draw attention to the situation facing farm workers in Florida, in particular to the modern-day slavery cases that have been prosecuted by the US Attorney’s office. These cases have been well documented and deserve the attention of the State of Florida’s highest authorities. We join with others from across the nation asking that Governor Christ acknowledge the severity of the situation and work to ensure that workers’ basic human rights are guaranteed in the future.

Swanton Berry Farm’s philosophy has always been that producing the highest quality and best-tasting fruits and vegetables requires respecting the rights of the workers who grow them. Towards this end we have worked to ensure that workers have an active voice in the workplace and they are compensated fairly for their labor. In 1998, we signed a collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, to formalize our labor relations. The union contract codifies the following practices:

  • Workers are paid on an hourly basis, as opposed to the regressive piece-rate system.
  • Workers receive health insurance, a pension plan, paid vacations, and paid holidays.
  • A seniority system, which ensures that hours and work assignments are distributed fairly.
  • In addition to more traditional retirement benefits through the union, all workers who have achieved seniority begin to earn a financial stake in the company, through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

At Swanton Berry Farm, we have discovered that these measures provide the basis for a socially responsible and economically sound business model. Since signing the union contract, the company has expanded its market substantially. While our labor costs may be higher than many other agricultural employers, we realize a return on this investment in the form of high quality produce and satisfied customers. Our experience provides evidence that commercial success need not come at the expense of those who perform the critical work of planting, maintaining, and harvesting our crops.


Jim Cochran

Sandy Brown
Corporate Secretary