Temple Democratic Socialists teamed with an organization for field worker wages.
While Trader Joe’s is a typically popular grocery stop for college students, some student protestors gathered outside the Center City branch on 21st and Market streets Sunday, Oct. 16, to protest the rights of immigrant tomato pickers in Florida.
The protesters, organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said they were stationed at the store’s entrance to combat the working conditions and low wages of tomato pickers.
The CIW seeks to have Trader Joe’s sign a “fair food” agreement that would allow the tomato pickers to be paid one cent more per pound of tomatoes picked.
The organization has found success with other large corporations, including McDonald’s and Whole Foods Market, which have both signed the agreement.
A typical worker makes about 50 cents per 32-pound bag of tomatoes collected, activists said, meaning that one would have to collect 2.2 tons of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a 10-hour work day.
Members of the coalition have said the extra cent could give the workers about a 70 percent wage increase.
“I want to shop here…but knowing this about them, that they refuse to pay a penny more for pound for tomatoes [for] the Immokalee workers, makes me sort of question their business practice,” senior anthropology major Elizabeth Pride said.
Pride is a member of the Temple Democratic Socialists, a group represented at the protest.
In a response letter, Trader Joe’s refutes the claims by the coalition, stating “we have no problems paying the ‘penny for a pound’ and have been doing so for some time now.”
The letter also goes on to say that Trader Joe’s is willing to compromise with the CIW on certain issues, such as “penny for a pound,” but will not do so on other terms that they deem as “undefined or overreaching.”
The notice states that the agreement would give the CIW power to force the company to terminate any vendor or supplier upon “a confidentiality requirement that can be breached upon the sole judgment of the CIW.”
Still, students at the protest contend that the company needs to sign the agreement in order to guarantee the tomato pickers in Florida are being paid a fair wage.
“I love Trader Joe’s stress on organic food, health food…and I would love to shop here but I can’t do it in good conscious knowing that they do business with farming corporations that pay their workers abysmal wages for doing really intensive work,” Sean Monahan, a first-year political science graduate student, said.
Khoury Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.