Thursday, September 11, 2008

Whole Foods to Help Out Tomato Farmers

"First, it was the world's three biggest fast food companies; now Whole Foods Market has promised the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to help raise pay and improve working conditions for tomato harvesters.

The Texas-based natural foods giant agreed Tuesday to pay a penny and a half more per pound for Florida tomatoes and to establish higher labor standards for the workers who pick them.

Whole Foods is the first grocery chain to join Burger King, McDonald's and Yum Brands (owner of Taco Bell and KFC, among other chains), in signing the agreement with the 4,000-plus-member farmworker organization.

Coalition member Greg Asbed has said the raise means workers' yearly wages could rise from about $10,000 to between $16,000 and $17,000. Although there are no exact numbers, there are likely between 10,000 and 30,000 migrant farmworkers in Florida, according to government estimates. Southwest Florida accounts for about a third of the state's tomato crop, worth roughly $619 million last year, said Reggie Brown, vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a cooperative group, to which 90 percent of the state's growers belong."

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