CIW, Compass Group, East Coast announce “sweeping changes to benefit tomato harvesters” at press conference in DC!

There’s no question that this is the greatest victory for farmworkers since Cesar Chavez in the 1970s.”
– Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” (Ft. Myers News-Press, “Tomato workers win new pay deal” 9/26/09)

This is a huge victory.”
– Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis (remarks at announcement ceremony 9/25/09)

Hilda Solis and Oscar

Sec. of Labor Solis congratulates the CIW’s Oscar Otzoy at Friday’s announcement ceremony.

Update: The Nation, “A Compass for Fair Food,” (9/27/09): “The vision that the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has pursued and is beginning to see come to fruition is an inspiring one, and a model for the nation.” read more >>

Here’s a round-up of statements on the announcement:

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis: “I would like to congratulate the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. For the first time, a major Florida producer, East Coast Growers and Packers, represented here, has implemented the CIW’s Fair Food program. This is a huge victory.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “I commend the Compass Group and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for taking meaningful steps to ensure that these workers are paid a decent wage and are treated fairly. This agreement not only represents an important step forward for tomato workers in Florida, it is an expression of the essential value of farm workers to our agricultural sector as a whole.” see the statement here on the USDA website

Senator Bernie Sanders: “Today marks the beginning of the end of the harvest of shame that has existed for far too long in Florida’s tomato fields. I applaud the tireless efforts of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers toward improving the wages and working conditions of tomato workers. I also commend the Compass Group for agreeing to this important initiative. The time has come for all tomato growers to participate in the penny per pound program and ensure that no tomato worker lives in abject poverty.”

Steve Sweeney, president and CEO of Chartwells (an operating company of Compass Group): “Compass Group purchases a lot of tomatoes. It is our intent that this agreement brings immediate financial benefit to the harvesters, gives our suppliers the opportunity to partner with us to change the way the industry does business, and provides a platform to educate our customers on the plight of agricultural workers in Florida.”

Lucas Benitez of the CIW: “The future of Florida agriculture is contained within this agreement today. It is a future founded on mutual respect and mutual benefit, a future of common purpose among farmworkers, growers, retail food leaders, and consumers. In short, it is a future of social responsibility. We look forward to working with East Coast, Compass, and the other companies that have signed Fair Food agreements to develop the rules and rigorous monitoring systems necessary to make that future a reality this coming season.”

Gerardo Reyes of the CIW: “For social responsibility to truly take hold in Florida, growers like East Coast who embrace more humane labor standards must be rewarded by the market. With a strategy for social responsibility and the support of companies like Compass, East Coast — and the workers whose labor is its lifeblood — will not only survive, but will thrive well into the 21st century.”

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