This past weekend, the Lakeland Ledger ran an intriguing article that provides further insight into the origins of the “SAFE” initiative, entitled “Growers Seeking SAFE Haven” (1/29/06):

“WASHINGTON — Jay Taylor recalls the seeds being sown last spring in a tomato packinghouse in Palmetto, where members of the restaurant industry and Florida agriculture met to discuss an escalating labor war.

That March, Taco Bell had agreed to pay tomato pickers in Florida an extra penny per pound and to demand new labor standards from growers after a threeyear boycott and a run of bad press. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the boycott organizer, had cast an unflattering spotlight on growers with a shame campaign against a big corporate customer.

Vegetable growers and other restaurant chains knew the Bell deal, the first of its kind, tolled for them.

Taylor said the message from restaurant representatives was clear: “You guys have got to do something about this issue.”

As the title and the opening paragraphs suggest, the name “SAFE” refers not so much to workers safe from exploitation and abuse, but growers seeking safety from further public criticism by this controversial new initiative. Read the full article by clicking here!