Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tomatoes, Slavery, and You

This summer International Justice Mission (IJM) volunteer, Crystal, had to see it for herself. Like many of us, she couldn’t believe that slavery still persists in America and that her home state of Florida was Ground Zero.  She went to Immokalee, Florida, the Tomato Capital of the U.S.,” which produces 90% of our nation’s tomatoes during the winter months. 

Crystal saw the workers’ squalid living conditions, and she heard their stories - stories of sexual and physical abuse, being held against their will, poor working conditions with long hours and little or no pay. She describes this as “not an issue of immigration but of desperation” since many of the workers are documented migrant workers or American citizens, who are easily exploited and dehumanized because they are poor. 

Watch her compelling video here:

According to IJM, over the past 15 years, 1000 slaves have been freed from Florida's tomato fields. There is good news today: most of Florida’s tomato growers have signed onto the Fair Food Program, which is ensuring that approximately 30,000 workers are protected from abusive conditions and paid better wages. The Fair Food Program is the result of many years of hard work by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community organization of migrant workers, that has been fighting for workers’ rights along with IJM.

However, there is more work to be done, and this is where YOU come in. While there has been significant progress, the Fair Food Program cannot have sustainable success without the nation’s largest buyers of tomatoes (the big supermarket chains) supporting the program’s growers and agreeing to pay the premium tomato price (an additional 1 cent per pound). Currently, only Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have signed on to the agreement. No other major supermarkets in the U.S. have pledged to buy slave-free tomatoes from growers in the Fair Food Program.

Take action here by signing IJM’s petition to major supermarkets, including Ahold (parent company of Stop & Shop) and ask them to support the Fair Food Program:
 IJM Petition to Supermarkets

Want to learn more about slavery in our nation’s tomato fields? Check out the links below.
1. International Justice Mission - Recipe for Change

2. Recipe for Change Family Action Kit   - A great IJM resource for the whole family (with important facts & kid-friendly activities)

3. Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Together let’s do our part to ensure we don’t buy slave-picked tomatoes and to urge our local supermarkets to get on board.

Jodi is a stay-at-home mom who wants to use her voice for the voiceless.

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