Farmworkers to Bike from Immokalee, Carry Iconic Blood-Stained Shirt of Beaten Farmworker to Trader Joe’s

First Florida Opening in Naples

Workers, Clergy to Call on Grocery Giant to
Sign Fair Food Agreement

Immokalee, FL — A group of tomato pickers will pedal from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Community Center in Immokalee to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Trader Joe’s Sunshine State debut on Friday, Feb. 10th at 8 AM. There, joined by local clergy, the farmworkers will ask to speak with Trader Joe’s Vice President Kent Smathers to discuss the importance of signing an agreement to lift famworkers’ pay a penny-per-pound as well as only buying from farms that comply with the CIW’s Fair Food Code of Conduct, which is taking effect this season at 90% of Florida’s tomato farms.

“Trader Joe’s is famous for employees’ quirky Hawaiian shirts; it’s a key component of their brand identity. In Immokalee, we also have an iconic shirt that embodies what we are about,” explained CIW member Oscar Otzoy, who will bike to the grand opening.

“Years ago, a young worker named Edgar was beaten bloody by his crewleader for simply getting a drink of water, and this shirt, indelibly stained with Edgar’s blood, was carried by a crowd of hundreds of farmworkers to the house of his crewleader along with a collective declaration from our community that we would no longer tolerate abuse in the fields. That moment helped launch the Campaign for Fair Food, and we want to share that bit of our history with Mr. Smathers and to discuss how his company can support the Fair Food Program, a groundbreaking Code of Conduct and monitoring program that today, in partnership with growers, is helping improve farmworkers’ lives and making abuses like those a thing of the past.”

Darinel Sales, another CIW member pedaling 35 miles to Naples, continued, “Today, Trader Joe’s can easily do its part to support the best hope for more ethical conditions in Florida’s tomato fields by signing an agreement — just as Whole Foods did in 2007 — committing to purchase exclusively from farms that abide by the Fair Food Code of Conduct and paying a small premium to address pickers’ poverty pay.”

The CIW will return to the Trader Joe’s store — along with scores of students, congregants and community members — for a massive protest on Sunday, February 12th at 2 PM.

In September, several CIW members rode bicycles from Immokalee to Publix’s HQ in Lakeland to invite CEO Ed Crenshaw — after years of ignored attempts at correspondence — to Immokalee to learn about how his company could take part in the CIW’s Fair Food agreements. Despite their 230-mile voyage, Mr. Crenshaw refused to so much as greet the workers.

CIW’s response to Trader Joe’s talking points is available here.