Why we picketed Trader Joe's

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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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

Reader Comments

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Rob Shopper from Gaithersburg, MD  

Posted: January 6th, 2013 6:14 PM

Funny how the comments stopped since TJ's signed the agreement. I am glad there are people to put all consumer locations in check.

Trader Joe's = Aldi foods  

Posted: December 13th, 2011 3:07 PM

they are one in the same and i hope you protest the new aldi on madison ave.

Luke ScottWalker from Oak Park  

Posted: December 13th, 2011 1:48 PM

It seems to me that TJ is perfectly within their purvue to not meet with CIW. They're making a business decision, and have obviously weighed the pros and cons. Their response isn't flawed or a "cop-out", it just doesn't fit with your agenda. The market will decide if this is important or not. Ten people on Harlem Ave won't have much impact, & 200 here would sign a petition to make Goerge Bush mayor. This will be a store-by-store basis. Now outta my way, I need my 3-buck Chuck!!

Tom Broderick from oak park  

Posted: December 13th, 2011 12:18 PM

Trader Joe's corporate response to a request for a meeting by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been a consistent "no." In their P.R. campaign, Trader Joe's claims they pay 3 cents more per pound for tomatoes picked. Which tomatoes? The large tomatoes most people think about when they think tomatoes? Or the newly popular grape tomatoes. The CIW is looking for 4 cents more per pound for this kind of tomato. Trader Joe's simply hides behind their p.r. campaign and will not meet with the CIW.

Food with Integrity  

Posted: December 12th, 2011 10:53 PM

Trader Joe's CEO sent the CIW explaining why they would not sign the agreement. The arguments provided are flawed and are merely a cop out from signing the agreement. If Trader Joe's is innocent they can easily prove they are purchasing from farms with ethical practices, rather than the typical farm or tomato producer down in Immokalee with poor practices.


Posted: December 12th, 2011 2:26 PM

Sorry, document the failure of Trader Joe's to meet the standards and post the proof; otherwise, we still live in an innocent until PROVEN guilty society.

Food with Integrity  

Posted: December 12th, 2011 9:31 AM

The CIW has the final word and authority because the CIW is comprised of the farm-workers themselves and the organizers who help focus the group on specific issues and targets. Overall, these are the people that know best what is going on in the farms and what needs to change.

OP Guy  

Posted: December 10th, 2011 12:25 AM

Who certifies the standards for the CIW? Government labor agencies? The FDA? I don't disagree with shooting for better standards in the work place... but why is the CIW considered the final word?

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: December 7th, 2011 2:38 PM

Wondering asks if "...declared migrant workers have always been allowed in to do their thing vs undocumented/illegal immigrants" The entry of foreign documented workers has been regulated by the US Dept of Labor with the employer having to show that he/she could not get citizens to do the work. Migrant workers who are citizens are free to make their own arrangements. Many citizens of Texas are forced to migrate when their jobs are taken by undocumented workers.

Food with Integrity  

Posted: December 7th, 2011 1:10 PM

The CIW's ongoing campaign focuses not only on the penny per pound, but also improving working conditions. Having been to Immokalee and seen the living conditions, and heard stories of working conditions, I believe that it is important for large corporations to sign this agreement, and hold themselves, as well as the tomato growers accountable for improving standards in agriculture. Signing the agreement would demonstrate Trader Joe's commitment to food with integrity


Posted: December 7th, 2011 10:45 AM

Think About It is obviously living in the wrong country as we have a presumption of innocent in the USA. Try getting a life together in some appropriate for you country where you can make undocumented accusations and be presumed correct forcing the other party to prove their innocence. I'll stay here, thank you. For Jim and Bruce, it is my understanding that declared migrant workers have always been allowed in to do their thing vs undocumented/illegal immigrants. Am I wrong?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 6th, 2011 4:46 PM

The crackdown on undocumented workers in some states has resulted in crops rotting. No one is interested in these jobs that require long hours in tough conditions for miserable pay.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: December 6th, 2011 4:23 PM

"Q" makes an interesting point: "Picking fruit and tomatoes has never been a high paying job. That's why illegals (sic) were allowed in for Picking Season." Perhaps if a decent wage was offered undocumented workers would have competition from documented workers and citizens.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 12:27 PM

Think about it, I don't need to take a lie detector test to prove to anyone I am being honest. I don't need to sign anything that says I am in agreement with something to satisfy someone else. This is possibly the stand Trader Joe's has taken. They have no need to prove anything to you. If they don't want to sign, leave them alone and ask someone else to join your union. Picking fruit and tomatoes has never been a high paying job. That's why illegals were allowed in for Picking Season.

Think about it  

Posted: November 30th, 2011 11:49 AM

To Wondering: Nor does the CIW have any knowledge that Trader Joe's is abiding by any of those demands, either. If TJ's is really paying the penny per pound, then why won't they just sign on and do so publicly? That they refuse to do so raises a red flag to the CIW and their allies, and should for you, as well. That is, of course, if you're okay with blindfolding yourself while the fox guards the hen house.


Posted: November 30th, 2011 9:25 AM

As I read this the CIW, whatever that is, seems to have no knowledge that Trader Joe's is violating any of their "demands" yet will continue to picket demanding that TJ's sign on anyway. Get a life.

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