|For Immediate Release
April 28, 2009
Putting an End to Tomatoes Tinged with
the Bitter Taste of Exploitation
Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Bon
Appétit Management Company Build Innovative New Model for Fair Labor Standards
in Florida's Tomato Fields
Appétit Management Company becomes the first food service company to establish
game-changing fair labor requirements that integrate:minimum
fair wage, worker empowerment stipulations, and incentives to growers who
exceed minimum requirements of the agreement.
Read the 4/29 Washington Post Feature
|Palo Alto, Calif., and Immokalee, Fla., (April 28, 2009) - A
Florida tomato picker, Mariano Lucas was forced to work without pay and was
regularly beaten and chained inside a box truck at night by a family of farm
bosses who held him and a dozen other workers captive.
You might think this nightmarish story
took place in some dark period of American history. Unbelievably, it's a
reality today, in the vast tomato fields of south Florida. In December 2008,
Lucas' captors were sentenced to 12 years in prison for "enslaving and
brutalizing migrant workers." At their
sentencing, Mariano stood before his former captors and told the judge, "Bosses
should not beat up the people who work with them."
Nobody knows exactly how many people
are enslaved in Florida, but federal civil rights officials have prosecuted
Photo: Lucas Benitez of the CIW describes farm
conditions to Fedele Bauccio of Bon
Appétit during a tour of
the fields in the area
of Immokalee, Florida
seven slavery operations involving over 1,000 workers in Florida's fields since
1997. One federal prosecutor called Florida "ground zero for modern-day
In an effort to address the systemic
exploitation of Florida's farmworkers, Bon Appétit Management Company, a
socially responsible food service company operating 400 university and
corporate cafés in 29 states, and The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a
farmworker organization spearheading the fight for more humane farm labor
standards in Florida, have forged a new agreement that frames acceptable
working conditions and enforces those conditions with a strict code of conduct.
Under this plan, which goes beyond the
CIW's agreements with other food industry companies, tomatoes will cease to be
an undifferentiated commodity crop and growers who treat their workers more
fairly will be rewarded with more business. Additionally, Bon Appétit is
sending a strong message to growers that the company is prepared to cease
buying tomatoes altogether if the growers don't follow the code of conduct
adopted by the company.
Employing both the carrot (better pay for growers) and the
stick (enforceability), Bon Appétit and the CIW aim to drive lasting changes
that will help agricultural workers achieve the level of dignity afforded all
American workers while providing sustainable competitive advantages for
agricultural workers do jobs that are far more difficult and dangerous than the
average retail or restaurant worker, yet these jobs are critical to our entire
food chain. When I met with workers in the fields and saw first-hand how
difficult their lives are, I knew that I could not, in good conscience,
contribute to such a system. We buy almost 5 million pounds of tomatoes a year.
I decided to use that power to make a real difference in the supply chain,"
said Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit
"The future of a fairer tomato industry
is being written today, and this agreement is a rough draft. It's not a final product, and it's not meant
to be. But it is a great first cut at building a relationship between
farmworkers and their employers based on a genuine appreciation for the value
of farmworkers' labor - something that has been absent since the birth of the
agricultural industry in Florida - and driven by a vision of universal human
rights. We see this as a golden opportunity for Florida's smaller, family-scale
farmers to gain access to a market that has traditionally been beyond their
reach, and to help elevate Florida's agricultural industry in the process,"
said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW.
agreement includes guarantees of real improvements in wages and working
conditions, and provides preferential purchasing incentives for growers who are
willing to raise the bar yet further. Highlights of the agreement include:
"We congratulate Bon Appétit Management
Company for their support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to bring humane
treatment to those that bring the food to our table. This historic partnership
between the food industry and farmworkers can end the slavery and slave-like
conditions that farmworkers are subjected to in Florida and other states. ˇSi Se
Puede!" Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation for
Community Organizing and Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers."
- A "Minimum Fair
Wage" - Workers will be paid a wage premium
that reflects the unique rigors and uncertainty of farm labor.
- An end to
traditional forms of wage abuse -
Through standards requiring growers to implement time clocks and to reconcile
wages paid with pounds harvested, workers will be paid for every hour worked
and every pound picked.
- Worker empowerment - Workers will be informed of their rights through a system
jointly developed by the growers and the CIW. Growers will also collaborate
with the CIW and Bon Appétit to implement and enforce a process for workers to
pursue complaints without fear of retribution.
- Worker safety - A worker-controlled health and safety committee will give
farmworkers a voice in addressing potentially dangerous working conditions,
including pesticide, heat, and machinery issues.
monitoring - Growers will permit third-party
monitoring that includes worker participation.
About the Coalition of Immokalee
The CIW (www.ciw-online.org) is a
community-based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida,
with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks
modern working conditions for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in
accordance with national and international labor standards. Among its accomplishments, the CIW has aided
in the prosecution by the Department of Justice of six slavery operations and
the liberation of well over 1,000 workers. The CIW uses creative methods to
educate consumers about human rights abuses in the U.S. agriculture industry,
the need for corporate social responsibility, and how consumers can help
workers realize their social change goals.
The CIW's Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for
fundamental farm labor reforms from retail food industry leaders, with the goal
of enlisting the market power of those companies to demand more humane labor
standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.
About Bon Appétit Management Company:
Bon Appétit Management Company (www.bamco.com) is
an onsite restaurant company offering full food service management to
corporations, universities and specialty venues. Bon Appétit is committed to
sourcing sustainable, local foods for all cafés throughout the country. A
pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed
programs addressing local purchasing, the overuse of antibiotics, sustainable
seafood, cage-free eggs, and most recently, the connection between food and
climate change. The company has received numerous awards for its work from
organizations like Seafood Choices Alliance, The Humane Society of the United
States, and Food Alliance. Based in Palo Alto, CA, Bon Appétit has more than
400 cafés in 29 states, including eBay, American University and the Getty
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