Trader Joe's presents itself as a hip, progressive place to shop, full of vegetarian options and free from the plethora of hot orange processed snacks found elsewhere. But Trader Joe's refuses to take one very critical progressive step and join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food. And because of their refusal, you might just be buying slave-picked produce from those friendly, Hawaiian shirt-wearing joes.
Modern-day slavery is a reality for many farm workers right here in the U.S. In Florida, over 1,000 people have been identified as trafficked in fields and on farms, picking the food we eat every day. Farm workers have also been trapped in slavery or seriously abusive conditions in California, Washington, North Carolina, Maryland, and several other states with large agricultural industries. Because the laws governing agriculture are different than those regulating other industries in the U.S., many of these workers don't have the same legal protections the rest of us do.
Trader Joe's is no stranger to dealing with labor and transparency concerns. Two years ago, a 17-year-old girl suffered a fatal heat stroke while picking grapes for Charles Shaw wine, the "Two Buck Chuck" Trader Joe's is famous for. And folks over Change.org's Sustainable Food property are asking the company for better transparency in their organic food sourcing. TJ's has also gotten flack for selling un-sustainable seafood and fish from places like Thailand and Bangladesh, where slavery in the fishing industry is common. That's a pretty poor track record for a company with a progressive, conscious customer base.
This is where you, that conscious customer, come in. As a consumer, you have the power to ensure the workers who grow and harvest your food are getting fair pay for their work and are being treated with dignity. The CIW's Campaign for Fair Food harnesses the purchasing power of the food industry for the betterment of farm worker wages and working conditions. Over the past decade, CIW has used the campaign to get some of the largest food purchasers in the country to support fairer labor standards for farm workers in the U.S., including a zero tolerance policy for slavery and transparent supply chains. Current participants include Subway, McDonald's, and Whole Foods. Now, Trader Joe's has the opportunity to join them and take a stand against slavery and farm worker exploitation.
Trader Joe's has a wide reputation for being a company where people can purchase food and feel good about it. Unfortunately the secrecy of the organization, their unwillingness to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food and some of their practices put this feeling into question. One of these practices includes sourcing unsustainable seafood from Thailand and Bangladesh where slave labor in the seafood industry is unfortunately not uncommon. Additionally, the death of a 17 year old who was picking grapes for Trader Joe's wine has also created concern among activist. Please visit this site and click the take action button to sign your name to the petition asking Trader Joe's to ensure fair and safe labor practices. Let them know their customers (and the community as a whole if you are not a customer) care.