Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis recognizes agreement for fair wages and safeguards in Florida fields
WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 25, 2009) — Compass Group North America and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) are proud to announce a partnership that will improve the working conditions of agricultural workers who harvest fresh tomatoes grown in Florida. The Immokalee region is the heart of the Florida tomato industry which provides 95% of all U.S. grown tomatoes eaten by Americans from October to June.
As part of the agreement, Compass Group will pay an additional 1.5 cents per pound for all the tomatoes they purchase from Florida annually, with one cent per pound being passed from the supplier directly to the harvesters. The agreed upon ‘Code of Conduct’ is designed to improve working conditions and give harvesters opportunity to advance beyond the field.
In part, the agreement will ensure:
• Workers will receive an immediate raise based on the penny-per-pound, with the ultimate goal of a guaranteed minimum fair wage
• Workers will be paid for every hour worked, with a system of clocking in/out to accurately record working hours
• Workers will have the ability to voice their concerns over safety and working conditions, and report Code violations, without fear of retribution
• Suppliers will allow education of workers as to their rights on company time and within the worksite by the CIW
• Suppliers will permit third party auditing for full transparency
Compass Group will only purchase tomatoes from those growers and suppliers willing to meet the standards set out in the Code of Conduct and pass the raise on to their workers.
In addition, Compass will assist the CIW with initiating a conversation with growers to resolve the ongoing issues with the working conditions on the tomato farms. The success of that initiative has already borne fruit with the recent announcement from East Coast Growers that they will meet the conditions in Compass Group’s Code of Conduct.
“Once we learned about the situation in Immokalee, we couldn’t stand by idly. Working with our purchasing department, we expect this code of conduct will improve the working conditions and create change within the industry,” explained Cheryl Queen, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Compass Group North America.
Compass Group manages over 10,000 accounts in the United States – from schools to corporate offices, from hospitals to cultural centers. Compass’ agreement and the supplier code of conduct will apply to all its operating companies including Eurest Dining Services, Restaurant Associates, FLIK International, Canteen Vending Services, Chartwells, Levy Restaurants, Morrison Management Specialists, and Wolfgang Puck Catering. Compass Group is the parent company of Bon Appétit Management Company, who also signed an agreement with the CIW in April 2009.
“Compass Group purchases a lot of tomatoes. It is our intent that this agreement brings immediate financial benefit to the harvesters, gives our suppliers the opportunity to partner with us to change the way the industry does business, and provides a platform to educate our customers on the plight of agricultural workers in Florida,” summarized Steve Sweeney, president and CEO of Chartwells, an operating company of Compass Group specializing in the education marketplace.
“The future of Florida agriculture is contained within this agreement today,” said Lucas Benitez of the CIW. “It is a future founded on mutual respect and mutual benefit, a future of common purpose among farmworkers, growers, retail food leaders, and consumers. In short, it is a future of social responsibility. We look forward to working with East Coast, Compass, and the other companies that have signed Fair Food agreements to develop the rules and rigorous monitoring systems necessary to make that future a reality this coming season.”
“For social responsibility to truly take hold in Florida, growers like East Coast who embrace more humane labor standards must be rewarded by the market,” added Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “With a strategy for social responsibility and the support of companies like Compass, East Coast — and the workers whose labor is its lifeblood — will not only survive, but will thrive well into the 21st century.”