Florida’s tomato farms supply 50% of all U.S. fresh tomatoes1 but have also been called America’s ‘ground zero for slavery.’ Countless workers have been found held against their will, threatened with violence and forced to haul hundreds of heavy tomato buckets a day for little to no pay.
And right now is the worst part of Florida’s tomato picking season – the days are hot and the vines have nearly been picked clean making it hard to fill quotas. In these final days, there is also tremendous pressure for tomato farms to turn a profit making conditions ripe for worker exploitation.
A new solution called the Fair Food Program has been proven successful in the fight against modern slavery in Florida’s tomato fields. But a major U.S. supermarket chain, Publix Super Markets, is refusing to support the Fair Food Program. Publix continues to buy tomatoes from growers that are not partners of the Fair Food Program and where workers still toil beyond the reach of its proven protection from modern slavery.
After decades of abuse, Florida’s farmworkers finally have a chance in the fight against exploitation with the Fair Food Program, demanding a policy of zero tolerance for human rights abuses, including slavery, on tomato farms.
The White House recently called the exciting new program “one of the most successful and innovative programs” in the world today in the fight to uncover – and prevent — modern-day slavery, and just last week United Nations investigators called it “impressive” and praised its “independent and robust enforcement mechanism.”
Leading brands including Subway, Whole Foods Market, McDonald’s and Trader Joe’s have already joined the fight against forced labour and now only buy tomatoes from growers who comply with the following Fair Food Principles:
- A code of conduct for tomato growers;
- Complaint mechanisms for farmworkers;
- Education sessions to help workers understand their rights; and
- Regular auditing of farm operations.
It’s been four long years of public pressure but Publix, one of the largest purchasers of local tomatoes, still refuses to take responsibility for their supply chain.
Will Publix Super Markets, which prides itself on making Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” list, continue to turn a blind eye and give excuses, or will it leverage its vast market influence and lead the way in cleaning up slavery in the tomato supply chain once and for all?
We think Publix will make the right choice, but it won’t happen without broad public support. Once you’ve sent your message to Publix, please forward this email on to your friends and family, urging them to join the fight that is ending slavery in the U.S. tomato industry.
Thank you for your support,
Debra, Kate, Ryan, Mich, Hayley, Nick, Jess, Amy and the Walk Free team.