The Common Good

Penny Per Pound Is Gaining Ground: Join the Call for Tomato Worker Justice

Romeo Ramirez knows a thing or two about abuse. Ramirez became a spokesperson for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in the mid '90s after witnessing a fellow worker being beaten for taking a water break. After nearly 20 years in the Florida tomato-picking business, he has seen it all: beatings, exploitation, and other forms of corrupt business practices.

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

But now, Ramirez is seeing a change in the system.
A month ago, East Coast Growers and Packers, one of the largest suppliers of tomatoes during the winter months in the U.S., signed an agreement to raise the wage of workers by a penny per pound.

Despite threats from the powerful Florida Growers Exchange to fine companies $100,000 if they supported the wage increase, East Coast Growers and Packers joined the CIW campaign for fair farming practices and withdrew their membership in the Exchange. East Coast Growers and Packers join big-name food chains such as Taco Bell, Burger King, Chipotle, and Subway in the fight for fair food practices.

Following suit, on Friday, Sept. 25, the world's largest food service company, Compass Group, announced its decision to follow the penny per pound rule. Compass Group also agreed to buy tomatoes only from Florida growers who implement the penny per pound rule and treat their workers fairly.

Next up? Kroger Company -- the nation's second largest supermarket company. Due to its size, the Kroger Company has the purchasing power to either greatly lower or greatly raise the prices from their tomato suppliers.

Many of the farmers who provide Kroger with tomatoes make about $10,000 a year -- below the poverty line for Florida workers. With the penny per pound increase, however, migrant worker salaries will rise to around $17,000 -- above the poverty line. Such a small difference can make a huge impact.

As a Christian, I firmly believe in God's call for us to act justly and love mercy. Justice for migrant workers has been a long time coming and these recent signs of progress should encourage all of us that our advocacy can make a difference.

Sojourners is a strong supporter of the worker-led and run CIW and we're joining the coalition in targeting Kroger Company.

Join us by writing Kroger Company an email, asking them to support fair wages for tomato pickers.

Megan Grove is the campaign intern for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR).

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)