February 26, 2008

3/10: Action at Whole Foods Shareholder Meeting

Monday, March 10th, 8am
Hilton Austin
500 East 4th Street, 78701

CIW: "Today we are tired, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of 'relying on the good will and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us.'"

Campaign Background: One year ago, the CIW sent a letter to Whole Foods requesting dialogue around solutions to the human rights crisis in Florida's fields. Whole Foods flatly ignored this request, later claiming to the Austin-American Statesman they never received the certified letter. On February 11, 2008, a delegation of CIW and Austin community members re-delivered the letter to Whole Foods corporate headquarters.

With $6.6 billion in 2007 sales, Whole Foods is the world's leading natural and organic food retailer. It stakes its brand and reputation on an image of social responsibility. Through its
Whole Trade guarantee, for example, it proudly markets fair trade purchasing programs for products from overseas, claiming to "help combat poverty" through "better wages and working conditions for workers." Yet farmworkers suffer unconscionable wages and working conditions here in the United States, including:
  • sub-poverty wages (tomato pickers earn roughly $10,000/year, according to the US Department of Labor);
  • no raise in nearly 30 years (pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate today as in 1980 – at the going rate, workers must pick more than 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day);
  • and the denial of fundamental labor rights (no right to overtime pay nor right to organize).
In the most extreme cases, workers face actual conditions of modern-day slavery. The CIW has helped federal civil rights officials to prosecute six slavery operations – involving over one thousand workers – in Florida's fields since 1997.

One year is too long to wait. Please join us on March 10th to take this message to Whole Foods' shareholders from around the country.