As the third largest fast-food chain in the world adds its name to a growing list of giants to deliver wage increases and working condition improvements to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, momentum is being gained on the journey to support workers' rights in the Immokalee region of Florida.
On Tuesday, Subway's independent purchasing cooperative president and CEO, Jan Risi, agreed to pay an additional penny per pound for Immokalee tomatoes, company spokesman Les Winograd said. The submarine-sandwich company, the largest fast-food buyer of the region's tomatoes, has effectively doubled the income of the tomato pickers, from 40 cents to 72 cents per bucket of fruit.
An additional commitment was made to support the development of an industry-wide code of conduct that will aim to create a uniform set of standards for all Florida tomato growers and purchasers.
Independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement saying, "The agreement between Subway and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is yet another blow to the scourge of slavery that continues to exist in the tomato fields of Florida."
Every time one of these companies capitulates to the power of people and publicity, it is undoubtedly a great boon for the workers affected. Indeed, it is truly striking that the Coalition's members are the very workers themselves: This is an out-and-out grassroots organization, one that should challenge us to see the great value and strength of community organizing and well-structured protest.
However, it is increasingly difficult to become appalled at the maltreatment of workers in Florida and then applaud Subway's gesture