Thursday, April 01, 2010

Immokalee Tomato Harvesters Get New Agreement

Harvesters To Get Additional 1.5 Cent Per Pound Premium

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and ARAMARK, a large food service company have reached an agreement to address farmworker wages and working conditions in the tomato fields of Florida. Similar to those previously reached between the CIW and other food service and restaurant groups, the agreement establishes a supplier code of conduct developed and implemented with input from farmworkers themselves.  ARAMARK will also pay a 1.5-cent premium for every pound of tomatoes picked, with the premium to be distributed directly to harvesters.

ARAMARK provides professional services, providing food services, facilities management, and uniform and career apparel to health care institutions, universities and school districts, stadiums and arenas, and businesses around the world. ARAMARK has approximately 255,000 employees serving clients in 22 countries.

As a result of this agreement, ARAMARK, along with other CIW partner companies, will steer its tomato purchases toward those growers who make a genuine effort to meet higher labor standards and away from any grower who is found to be associated with abusive labor practices. 

Independent discussions between ARAMARK, the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) have explored wage and working conditions of Florida tomato farm workers. As a result of these discussions, ARAMARK has signed this agreement, supporting the CIW�s Fair Food Program.

Still remaining to be brought to an agreement remain Publix Supermarkets and Sodexo. "If corporations like Sodexo and Publix are to truly embrace social responsibility and guarantee to consumers that the food on our tables is not the product of human rights abuse, they must step up and follow Aramark and several other industry leaders in agreeing to work with the CIW," said Meghan Cohorst, Student/Farmworker Alliance.

Farmworkers picking tomatoes for the food industry usually from dawn to dusk for sub-poverty wages at a piece rate (40-50 cents for each 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes) that has not changed significantly in over 30 years, says the Student/Farmworker Alliance.

Harvesters work, says the Alliance, with no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick leave, no pension, and without the legal rights to form unions or to demand collective bargaining with their employers, stemming from New Deal-era exclusions of farm and domestic workers from many of basic labor and human rights found in other industries.

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