MIAMI Jan 16 Wal-Mart Stores Inc joined a
program on Thursday promoted by workers' rights groups that aims
to improve pay and working conditions for Florida farmworkers
who pick tomatoes sold to grocery store and restaurant chains.
The world's largest retailer will participate in the Fair
Food Program, an initiative started by the Coalition of
Immokalee Workers, a group of farmworker activists in Florida.
The decision by Wal-Mart adds another big name to
the program under which companies agree to pay pickers a penny
more for every pound of fruit they harvest.
"We are truly pleased to welcome Wal-Mart into the Fair Food
Program," Cruz Salacio, a spokesman for the coalition said in a
"Through this collaboration, not only will thousands of
hard-working farmworkers see concrete improvements to their
lives, but millions of consumers will learn about the Fair Food
Program and of a better way to buy fruits and vegetables grown
and harvested here in the U.S.," he said.
Other major companies participating in the program include
Burger King, Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald's
Corp, Subway, the Trader Joe's and Whole Foods
Market supermarket chains and Yum Brands, the
owner of restaurant chains KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
"Our participation in the Food Fair Program combined with
long term supply agreements with our suppliers will ensure that
our customers get great products at great prices from suppliers
that are working to improve the lives of their workers," said
Tom Leech, a Wal-Mart senior vice president.
Florida is the second-largest tomato-growing state in the
country after California, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, producing more than $600 million worth.
Some 33,000 tomato pickers work in Florida, earning salaries
estimated between $10,000 and $13,000 a year, according to
The coalition was formed in the early 1990s in Immokalee, a
city in southwestern Florida at the heart of the state's tomato
industry. Angry over pay and working conditions, the group began
pressing for higher wages for tomato pickers, many of them
immigrants from Latin America, first with strikes and then
The group reached an agreement in 2010 with Florida tomato
growers to implement the Fair Food Program, which also
strengthened workplace conditions including a zero tolerance for