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Farmworkers pressure other companies with the Florida March

By 03/17/2023 2:07 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff

Last week, farmworkers led a five-day, 45-mile (72-kilometer) walk from one of Florida’s poorest villages to one of its wealthiest areas, a beachfront hamlet dotted with mansions, to persuade retailers to use their purchasing power to improve worker wages and working conditions.

The farm workers claimed that the Fair Food Program, which has enlisted businesses like McDonald’s, Walmart, Taco Bell, and Whole Foods to utilize their influence with growers to guarantee better working conditions and wages for farmworkers, was the reason behind their demonstration.

They wanted to utilize the march to pressure additional businesses to join the 2011-launched initiative, including Publix, Wendy’s, and Kroger.

The march started on Tuesday in Pahokee, a rural hamlet among the poorest in Florida and with a median household income of just under $30,000.

The march’s starting point was a camp where farmworkers were forced to work for little pay by a labor contractor who was found guilty and given a nearly 10-year prison sentence last year.

According to the U.S., the contractor took the Mexican farmworkers’ passports, demanded exorbitant payments, and threatened to deport or falsely arrest them if they didn’t pay.

The demonstrators were expected to arrive on schedule on Saturday in Palm Beach, a wealthy community with a typical household income of over $169,000 and a row of mansions belonging to the rich and famous, including billionaire Nelson Peltz, chairman of Wendy’s and former president Donald Trump.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, based in Florida, which planned the march, claims that the program has reduced the threat of sexual assault, harassment, and forced labor under armed guards in the fields where tomatoes and other crops are harvested.

It has also guaranteed farmworkers’ on-the-job safety measures, such as shade, water, and restroom access. In the center of Florida’s tomato-growing region sits the rural community of Immokalee.

According to the partnership, growers have benefited since it lowers turnover and boosts output.

Wendy’s said in a statement that it did not participate in the Fair Food Program because it sources its tomato supply from indoor hydroponic greenhouse farms, whereas the program operates for farmworkers primarily in outdoor fields, so “there is no nexus between the program and our supply chain,” the fast food chain said.

According to Wendy’s, the claim that Wendy’s can only show supply chain responsibility by signing up for the Fair Food Program and using field-grown, commodity tomatoes is untrue.

Inquiries sent through email to Publix and Kroger representatives were not answered.

In the early 2000s, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers organized a four-year, nationwide Taco Bell boycott, which gave rise to putting pressure on merchants to utilize their influence with producers to improve the pay and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers.

After the corporation decided to pay a cent extra per pound for tomatoes bought from Florida producers to increase farmworkers’ wages, the boycott ended in 2005.

After a contract with Florida tomato growers a few years later, the Fair Food Program was established, and it now has more than a dozen participating businesses.

The ability to voice complaints now exists for employees without fear of reprisal. At the beginning of the march in Pahokee, coalition official Gerardo Reyes Chavez declared,

“Workers also have water and shade as part of these agreements. The perfect program has been demonstrated to be the answer, the remedy to the issues that have long plagued the agriculture sector, including the issues of sexual assault and modern-day slavery.


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