Chipotle Raises Pay For Tomato Pickers
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In Florida, tomatoes are easy to move around. They're grown there, but there's a long-running between tomato pickers and companies that provide them to restaurants.
A big restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, has joined other fast food chains and giving tomato pickers a raise. That's good news to one advocacy group in Immokalee, Florida. From Fort Myers, member station WGCU, Valerie Alker reports.
VALERIE ALKER: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has championed the penny per pound increase for years. McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King and others agreed to pay more, but the pickers haven't seen the extra money. That's because the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has threatened its members, citing legal issues. So the money have been held in escrow.
Chipotle Spokesman Chris Arnold says his company will buy its Florida tomatoes directly from one private grower.
Mr. CHRIS ARNOLD (Spokesman, Chipotle Mexican Grill): In looking at all of the ingredients we use to make our food, we're constantly looking for ways to make them better, to get ingredients that are raised in ways that demonstrate respect for the land and the animals and for the workers who are involved.
ALKER: The penny-a-pound increase may not sound like much, but it will likely give workers a 64 percent raise.
University of Florida agricultural economist Fritz Roca says the deal is good for workers, but the challenge for restaurants is to make it sustainable.
Mr. FRITZ ROCA (Agricultural economist, University of Florida): They have to somehow translate this agreement into a value that their customers, that they say, hey, these folks are doing something for the betterment of farm workers and we want to support them.
Ms, ALKER: But Roca says growers could lower their wages now that retailers are contributing directly to workers' paychecks.
For NPR News, I'm Valerie Alker in Fort Myers, Florida.
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