Pressure On Companies Works So Let’s Step It Up

Last week two separate news stories highlighted the fact that large corporations do make changes under pressure.

Nestle announced they will start removing artificial colors and flavors from their candy. And Wal-Mart announced they will gave a half million employees raises, paying a minimum of $10/hour by next February.

Wal-Mart workers have been tireless in their efforts to push the company to pay better and they have finally succeeded. Nestle has recognized that consumers want to avoid the unhealthiest ingredients even in their treats. These were causes of celebration last week.

But this week it is time to get back to work. These are powerful examples of internal (Wal-Mart’s own employees) and external (pressure from Nestle’s consumers) can create change, but in neither case is this enough.

Ten dollars an hour is still a poverty wage for many working families, especially when hours and schedules are variable and unpredictable. And these wages don’t even go into effect for another year.

In the case of Nestle, not all “natural” flavors are healthier than artificial ones. Natural vanilla flavoring doesn’t mean flavor from a vanilla bean. See for example this good overview of where natural flavors come from, including the example of natural vanilla flavor made from beaver anal secretions. And now vanilla made from synthetic biology (“synbio”) is hitting the market and may be labeled as natural, even though most consumers do not think of genetically altered algae eating sugar and spitting components of vanilla flavoring as very natural. (See the article on synbio vanilla by Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth in our last publication for more on the threats of synbio vanilla on farmers and the environment.)

The take away? Pressure works and now we need to step it up.


Posted on February 24th 2015


Tell Driscoll’s to Be Fair!

Tell Driscoll's to Be FairFarmworkers at the Sakuma Brothers berry farm in Washington state have been in a years-long struggle for fair pay and rights protection with farm owners. Workers, under the banner of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (United Families for Justice) have been trying to obtain a legally binding contract that ensures a fair wage and decent working conditions.

Sakuma Brothers has refused to negotiate and not upheld promises, meanwhile attempting to underpay workers using a piece-rate system, allow basic abuses of rights on the field, and as attempted to bring in new workers through the H2A program when local workers started organizing. The situation is so bad that workers have called for a boycott of Sakuma Brothers berries. That is, they are asking buyers not to buy the very product that provides their livelihoods.

Driscoll’s is one of Sakuma’s main buyers. Driscoll’s is aware of the situation on Sakuma brother’s farms, but, despite a stated commitment to community and sustainability, workers report that Driscoll has actually increased purchases from Sakuma Brothers since the dispute began.

We are collecting signatures between now and March 9th when we will send a letter to Driscoll’s asking them to suspend their relationship with Sakuma Brothers until they negotiate a fair contract with farmworkers.

A copy of the letter with all signatures will be delivered to the Driscoll CEO on March 9th, 2015.

Dear Driscoll’s

We are deeply troubled by your partnership with Sakuma Brother’s Farm in Washington State. For several years Familias Unidas por la Justicia has been attempting to negotiate a fair and legally binding contract with Sakuma Brother’s that protects their basic rights and provides fair wages. Their situation is so dire they have been forced to call for a boycott and at the same time you have increased purchases from them.

The new growing season is coming up and we are writing to ask that you terminate your purchases from Sakuma Brothers until they in good faith negotiate a legally binding contract and Familias Unidas por la Justicia calls an end to the boycott.

Although we appreciate the opportunity to purchase fresh berries year-round from a trusted brand, we will not continue to support Driscoll’s if you continue to support farmworker abuse.

Posted on February 17th, 2015

President Obama Seeks to Revive Fast Track

As part of his State of the Union address, President Obama announced his attention to revive Fast Track, the dangerous legislation that would give him authority to negotiate international trade treaties like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) without debate or approval from Congress. Despite Obama’s promises to negotiate fair treaties, most groups advocating for working families, public health, sustainable and fair agriculture, and the environment believe these free trade agreements will be a disaster as written. With corporate lobbyists the only advisors, a precedent of unfair trade agreements, and almost no transparency, it is difficult to believe otherwise.

In response, thousands of people are calling Congress to tell them to stop Fast Track in its tracks. Will you join the call?

To reach your representative in Congress, all you need to do is call 888-804-8311.

Although your call is more powerful, you can also send an email.

Posted on January 21, 2015