The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) picks whole fresh tomatoes used by food industries and groceries around the country. They have been pressing for better pay and improved working conditions for several years, with much success. Fast food chains Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway have signed agreements with the CIW. Food service companies Bon Appetit Management Co., Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo have signed the agreement. The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which actually employs the workers, has signed. One grocer, Whole Foods, has signed the agreement.

The CIW approached Trader Joe’s about signing the agreement, but they have refused to meet with the CIW and their community allies. Instead it launched a public relations campaign stating that it is in compliance with what the CIW is asking. However nothing is verifiable. There is no transparency, only a corporate statement that all is well.

Oak Park area residents came together on Sunday, Nov. 20 for the first informational picket at a Chicago-area suburban Trader Joe’s — the one in Oak Park. Many of those who took part were involved in the McDonald’s victory. There was a one-hour walking picket, followed by a short meeting with the manager. We presented about 200 signed letters asking Trader Joe’s to meet with the representatives of the CIW and sign the agreement. We asked that the manager forward them to the corporate office, which he agreed to do. We also assured him we are aware that he is in no position to make policy and it is policy we want to affect.

People from Ascension Parish, the Green Party, Third Unitarian Church, Chicago Fair Food, Unity Temple, Teamsters Local 705, First United Church of Oak Park, District 7 MoveOn, Sisters of Blessed Virgin Mary, Oak Park Coalition for Truth & Justice and Chicago/Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America made our presence felt.

During the picket, the store window blinds were adjusted to keep people inside the store from seeing us or our signs. They also sent a representative out to provide us with a letter of misinformation from the corporate office. The letter is part of the public relations campaign declaring all is well, trust us.

Sorry T.J., no can do. More pickets to come.

Tom Broderick
Co-chair, Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America

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