Subway follows Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonald’s by pledging to pay one cent more per tomato in order to give workers a living wage. However, the fight now turns to the growers themselves, who have objected to the campaign and refuse to pass the money on to the workers.
”We’re hopeful that the growers will stop resisting this change and help us to get the money to the workers, rather than setting up barriers,” said Julia Perkins, a Coalition of Immokalee Workers spokesperson. “With every new company that signs on, it provides a lot of incentive for a forward-thinking grower to be willing to pass on the penny per pound.”
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a farmworker organization with over 4,000 members that seeks better working conditions for workers and promotes treatment in accordance fair labor standards. They have sought an extra one cent charge on tomatoes for fast food chains since 2002, winning their first victory in 2005 when Taco Bell signed on to the campaign.
”The minute the money is in the pickers hands that’s when it’s a good day,” said Jan Risi, president and chief executive of Subway’s Independent Purchasing Cooperative. “If it’s truly all about the workers, then we have to be vigilant and be sure everybody signs agreements like these and everybody agrees to the same standards.”
The growers argue that they cannot legally accept the money because the purchase price has been set by a third party. The vice-president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange said they would love to give the money, but since they cannot, he hopes the coalition of groups gathering the money would come up with an alternate means of delivery.
”I just wish someone would be a little creative and find a way to get the money to the workers,” he said. “We would like to see the worker paid, but we can’t do it.”