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Opinion: In Defense of Trader Joe's

There is a lame commentary over at Monrovia Patch today ( ) criticizing Monrovia's Trader Joe's. (I intend no criticism of Patch, by the way, as it is simply doing its job by providing a forum for the writer to express herself on a local topic.) Anyway, the writer lays into Trader Joe's because it "had not agreed to pay the penny extra a pound for tomatoes" to benefit tomato pickers in Florida.
So, right off, the writer ignores what even the workers' union itself stated in its own press release just a few days ago: that Trader Joe's has already agreed to pay an extra penny a pound for tomatoes. It just isn't going to sign the union's contract.
And frankly, I don't understand what the whole issue has to do with Trader Joe's at all.
Unless there is something I'm missing, Trader Joe's does not employ the tomato pickers, so why don't the workers ask their own employers for an extra penny a pound for tomatoes and then their employers can pass the cost along to Trader Joe's and other buyers? Why should Trader Joe's pay someone else's employees? What would you think if employees at the supermarket where you shop demanded that you pay extra money directly to their union? And what if you -- sweetheart that you are -- agreed, but then your word wasn't good enough for them so they demanded that you sign a contract to that effect?

Further, the writer of the opinion piece completely ignored Trader Joe's response ( ). But if just half of what the company says is true, it is even more justified in rejecting a contract that it should not feel obliged to sign even under the fairest of circumstances.

Here is just one of the six points Trader Joe's makes:

"The draft agreement contains a requirement that Trader Joe’s somehow will pay the total premium whether or not the supply of Florida Tomatoes is sufficient to meet our demands or regardless of where we actually buy the tomatoes. This, of course, is a ridiculous requirement to which no serious business would agree."

So... if Trader Joe's buys tomatoes in Texas it has to pay workers in Florida!?

I beg your pardon?
- Brad Haugaard


  1. I agree with you, I am baffled that these 400 plus protesters are here, in Monrovia. First hand, why are they not outside the farms in Florida where this unfair treatment and labor for a menial wage is taking place? Why hasn't it been in the national news? Do you mean to tell me Anderson Cooper is missing out on a good story? I read the article on the Patch, and also what struck me is that they were surprised no one from Trader Joes came out to speak with them? Who would? There is not a lawyer in the world that would tell a client go outside and speak to protesters. Peaceful or not.

  2. If this were Facebook, I'd click Like. You are absolutely correct Brad, this has nothing to do with Trader Joe's.

  3. The CIW has released a response to Trader Joe’s statement. If you are interested in understanding this situation, you should also read what the CIW is saying about the protest and why it is putting pressure on Trader Joes (see below). They are asking them to join what 9 other major corporations (including Whole Foods, McDonalds, and Taco Bell) in a movement to help stop the exploitation of some of the most difficult jobs in our country that we all benefit from when we eat our food. If the agreement was that outrageous, why would these companies have agreed?Corporations, like Trader Joe’s, have a responsibility to look into their food chain and to ensure that they are not contributing to exploitation. A 2004 study by Oxfam America confirmed this trend: “Squeezed by the buyers of their produce, growers pass on the costs and risks imposed on them to those on the lowest rung of the supply chain: the farmworkers they employ.” This is why Trader Joe’s is an important player in this mix - they are part of a chain, and they are at the top. Only above them is us, the consumer, who is purchasing the products. This is why a 400-person march with clergy is an appropriate start for our own engagement. That and perhaps not buying from these stores until they are in alignment with Fair Food.As for the CIW, they are a democratic organization of the farmworkers themselves where they develop leadership skills and courage to address slavery and exploitation. It is brave of these workers to stand up in the way they are. Far more courageous than simply fleeing to “another job,” as some suggest, only to let the next guy step in their place to be exploited. This would not change anything and it would only be supporting the dehumanizing status quo. In fact, in 2010, the CIW was recognized for these efforts by the U.S. Department of State as a “hero” in the global anti-trafficking movement. People lives must come before profits. Trader Joe’s would be wise to stop running and to work with them to help workers and our world be more just and humane.Here is their response:

  4. At first I was mad at Trader Joe's because I heard that they didn't sign the contract, but after reading Trader Joe's' statement, I'm not mad anymore. They have already started to pay a penny more per pound because they think it's a great idea and helps the workers. They just don't like the really weird other obligations of the contract, and if you read the Trader Joe's statement, you'll see why. Here is the link to their statement (copied from the first post in this forum): reading their statement, if what they say is true, I would not sign the contract either. So, Trader Joe's is doing a wonderful thing by, again, already paying the penny-more-per-pound out of the kindness of their heart, which is what everyone wants them to do. People who are mad at Trader Joe's really need to read their statement.