UPDATED: Wal-Mart pays penny-per-pound more for Florida tomatoes - The Packer

UPDATED: Wal-Mart pays penny-per-pound more for Florida tomatoes

01/17/2014 12:43:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Wal-Mart(UPDATED COVERAGE, Jan. 22) Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will be paying Florida tomato pickers a penny more for each pound harvested — and plans to expand that to include other fresh produce sold by the chain.

The world’s largest retailer signed an agreement Jan. 16 in Immokalee, Fla., with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has sought such agreements with retailers, foodservice operators and other tomato buyers. The workers group has dubbed the penny-per-pound initiative the Fair Food Premium.

According to a news release, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer agrees to:

  • Continue paying the premium when Florida-based growers in the program switch tomato harvest to other states
  •  Sign longer-term purchase commitments with some Florida growers;
  •  Fold the extra penny directly into Wal-Mart’s costs for Florida tomatoes; and
  •  Eventually expand the program to other crops.

Through the initiative, growers pass the bonuses to workers as part of a traceable payment system the Fair Food Standards Council monitors, according to the release.

“Wal-Mart and our suppliers are committed to strong ethical sourcing standards and every day we work to help ensure the products we sell are produced in a way that provides fair treatment for workers in our supply chain,” Tom Leech, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of global food sourcing, said in the release. “Our participation in the Fair Food Program combined with long term supply agreements with our suppliers will ensure that our customers get great products at great prices from suppliers that are working to improve the lives of their workers.”

Coalition of Immokalee Workers“Wal-Mart’s supporting the Fair Food program speaks volumes about the legitimacy and the importance of what the CIW has done and continues to do to expand worker protection,” said Jon Esformes, operating partner of Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., Palmetto, Fla. “ ... We are very grateful and honored to be partners with the coalition & Wal-Mart in this effort to increase worker safety, protections and worker pay.”

The defunct East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., in Mulberry, Fla., was the first major Florida grower-shipper to sign onto the initiative with the workers’ group in 2009 with Pacific Tomatoes and Immokalee-based Lipman signing on in October 2010.

The Maitland-based Florida Tomato Growers Exchange later followed suit, effectively adding participating exchange members to the program.

The Wal-Mart signing was conducted at a Lipman packing operation.

Lipman officials declined comment.

Other retail and foodservice companies that have signed agreements with the CIW include Whole Foods Market Inc., Trader Joe’s, McDonald’s USA, Burger King Corp., Yum! Brands Inc., the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s and A&W, Subway, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Aramark, Compass Group North America and Sodexo Inc.

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Michigan  |  January, 20, 2014 at 09:41 AM

This is very noble! Having hired and worked with many migrants and farm laborers in the past, I can appreciate any efforts to improve their lives. But, the cynic in me speculates that Walmart and other retailers will figure out a way to re-coup that extra penny from the producers in another way, thereby not changing their costs at all. This is just another cheesy way that corporations and other businesses are trying to show their "progressive stripes" to all those who feel that capitalism is evil.

FL  |  January, 20, 2014 at 10:48 AM

The whole thing is a joke. Why only florida? Why not Mexico? Why not other states? There is a significant cost, financially and in man-hours, to implementing and maintaining the penny-per-pound program (out of the grower's pocket). Not making excuses for any employer who has mistreated their employees... its just very ignorant to put it on Florida growers only. Nothing but a PR move by retailers to make themselves feel better about themselves. In reality, its nothing but a mafia shake down in which very little of the money reaches the migrants. It has already been reported that CIW finances are questionable....

FL  |  January, 21, 2014 at 06:50 AM

Your comment makes no sense. Walmart strikes me as the kind of company that does careful vetting before signing onto something like this and is not particularly vulnerable to a "mafia shake down." And I'm sure you know the penny per pound flows through the supply chain, so CIW never touches it on its way to the workers (although growers actually retain 13% to help offset administrative costs associated with the program). Lastly, it appears that the Fair Food Program will be expanding beyond Florida tomatoes soon -- as mentioned in the opening sentence of the article you supposedly just read.

January, 21, 2014 at 11:46 AM

1. Not a mafia "Mafia Shake Down?" Definition of a shake down: "the act of taking something from someone by using threats or deception." The coalition openly badgers and protests the retailers and restaurant chains into submission. They use public image as a weapon. Walmart has a terrible public image and will use any trick to try to look better. Why do you think the CIW goes after the end-user instead of the grower? The growers are abiding by the laws and the CIW would not be effective. 2. The money flows directly to the workers. No, no it doesn't. I have spoken with two participating growers and no the money does not go directly to the workers--nor do those workers receive all the money. 3. I'd imagine and hope CIW is non-profit. Maybe I missed it but I cannot find its financials. I would love to see what its employees, managers, and company officers make. 4. As the CIW continues to grow, it will receive more resistance. Understand that it can pull this off with the big-boy growers but it will not be able to do it across the board with all growers.

January, 21, 2014 at 12:32 PM

These statements are long on innuendo and short on facts. Hopefully most readers have a better grasp on reality.

Gisela White    
Florida  |  January, 21, 2014 at 04:29 PM


honduras  |  January, 27, 2014 at 04:53 PM

In the short term is simple arithmetics: this penny will be paid by one (or a combination) of these: 1) The producer that will be squeezed even more 2) The customers of Wal-Mart 3) The shareholders of Wal-Mart (I strongly doubt this one) In the long-term, it will make the tomatoes of Florida even less competitive, decreasing the demand for labour in Florida and screwing even more the low-wage workers of the US, illegal immigrant or american (there must be still 2 or 3 out there...)

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