Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coalition of Immokalee Workers signs "landmark agreement" with Florida tomato industry leader

Posted By on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 11:37 AM

click to enlarge Food and Farm Farmworkers Publix

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced today that they have signed an agreement with Pacific Tomato Growers.

Press release follows:

The agreement represents a significant step forward in the CIW's decade-long campaign for labor reforms in Florida's tomato industry.  Not only is it the first formal agreement between the CIW and a major tomato grower, but the new accord establishes several practical systems designed to implement cooperatively the key principles of the Code of Conduct at the heart of the Campaign for Fair Food.  Those principles include a joint -- and, when need be, external -- complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process aimed at insuring that farmworkers themselves are active participants in the social responsibility efforts.

The agreement also provides for third-party auditing of both the systems needed to implement the Code and payment of the "penny-per-pound," the price premium designed to raise farmworker wages that is part of the CIW's agreements with nine major retail food companies, including sector leaders McDonald's, Whole Foods, and Compass Group.

“Pacific Tomato Growers (PTG) believes that it is time to speak out publicly about working conditions in agriculture. We along with many other responsible agricultural firms work daily to provide safe and fair working conditions, yet continued abuses within the industry demand that we speak out,” said Jon Esformes, Operating Partner, on behalf of the Board of Directors, PTG, Palmetto, FL.

“Our two families, as owners of PTG, believe now is the time to ask other similarly responsible agricultural companies to join in the effort to bring positive change to our industry for the benefit of farm employees. It is an absolute that farmworkers must have the same protections as people working in the white collar world,” explained Esformes.

"This breakthrough is a testament to the leadership at Pacific Tomato Growers, who truly came to the talks that led to today's announcement with an open heart, " said Lucas Benitez of the CIW.  "Without that spirit of partnership, it wouldn't have been possible to even talk about the kind of changes contemplated in this agreement, much less hammer out the concrete systems necessary to make those changes real and sustainable."

"As we turn the page on this new chapter in Florida agricultural history, however, I do want to make one thing crystal clear," Benitez added.  "We are not today claiming that we have achieved the changes sought by the Campaign for Fair Food.  Rather, we are announcing that we have forged a plan of action that gives us a realistic chance to bring about those changes.  This plan is designed precisely to address those unsustainable workplace conditions that have plagued Florida agriculture for so long, so that we can eliminate them and build a stronger foundation for the industry in the future.  In other words, today, Pacific and the CIW are embarking together on a road toward real social responsibility.  And if that road leads us where we think it will, it will be a model for generations of farmworkers -- and farmers -- to come."

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