On behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) I want to commend the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Whole Foods Market on their agreement to improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers in the Florida tomato fields. By voluntarily stepping forward, Whole Foods Market has signaled that “the time is now” for members of the grocery industry to join in forging a more just and sustainable food system together with the farmworkers.
Recognizing that the well-being of the earth, its resources and humanity are interdependent, the PC(USA) believes that we are called to ways of living that foster the wholeness God intends for our world. Whole Foods Market is a pioneer in crafting business practices that uphold standards of environmental and animal welfare. Through this agreement with the CIW, the company now adds new and necessary standards for human rights to its sustainable business practices.
The reasonable and urgent demands of the farmworkers for a penny-per -pound wage increase and the joint development of a worker-monitored, human rights-based code of conduct to address heinous abuses such as modern-day slavery in the fields that are hallmarks of the farmworkers’ agreements with other corporations are met in this agreement. Further, the agreement has the potential to go well beyond the standards already established by the Campaign for Fair Food as Whole Foods Market has committed to working with the Coalition in the development of standards to assure rights and benefits for farmworkers not currently in place anywhere in Florida today.
As the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lauds this agreement, we take this opportunity to call on the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to repent; to cease obstructing the penny wage increase from getting to the farmworkers and to become a part of this historic movement for a more just and humane food system. Major corporations in the retail food industry are prepared to do their part, consumers are urging this change and justice for farmworkers is generations overdue. What is missing is the commitment of the leadership of the tomato industry.
The agreement between the CIW and Whole Foods Market stands as a harbinger of change within the grocery industry and marks a significant advance in the sustainable food movement. The Presbyterian Church remains committed to working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers until that longed-for day when the entire retail food industry and the agricultural industry can say with assurance: the tomatoes we deliver to tables across this nation ensure the human rights of the farmworkers who harvest them.