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Trader Joe's/"Two Buck Chuck" Campaign
07/08/2008

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CA Heat Regulations - Trader Joe's

 
TAKE ACTION:
Farm worker who died connected to
"Two-Buck Chuck."

MariaWe told you about the tragic death of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died while laboring in a Stockton area vineyard in 100 plus degree heat. According to a AP story, the San Joaquin County Coroner has officially confirmed that Maria died of heat stroke. Maria had been working 8 hours in the blistering heat without shade or sufficient water. The closest water supply was a 10 minute walk away. (Click to read Maria's story.)

According to worker charges filed with Cal OSHA, the land owner where Maria suffered heat stroke continues to utilize labor contractors that don't abide by the law. And Friday, a month after Maria's passing, another charge was filed for lack of water and shade at one of the company's locations.

trader Joe's bottleBecause Maria worked for a labor contractor, she most likely never knew she was part of the production team for Bronco Winery who is better known for Charles Shaw wines--commonly called "Two-Buck Chuck."  This best selling wine is available exclusively at Trader Joe's stores.  According to Trader Joe's web site, "these super-value wines began as the result of an oversupply of wine and a great relationship with a valued supplier."

Help us ask Trader Joe's to use their "great relationship" to protect the workers who labor to pick the crop. Ask Trader Joe's to implement a corporate policy to ensure that their suppliers are not violating the law by failing to provide farm workers with basic protections such as cold water, shade and clean bathrooms.

Requests of this type are not new to Trader Joe's.  Back in 2005 after the Humane Society and customers expressed concerns, Trader Joe's agreed to sell only cage free eggs under the company's label. We commend Trader Joe's for this corporate responsibility and ask them to do the same for farm workers. After all isn't the life of a farm worker as important as the life of a chicken?

Trader Joe's web site says "we listen to what our customers tell us about the choices we give them." Please ask Trader Joe's to listen and take action today. As the exclusive distributor of Charles Shaw wines, they need to take corporate responsibility before more farm workers, like Maria die due to grower neglect.

Please Take Action Today!

UFW responds to Trader Joe's half truths & evasions

Tell Trader Joe's to Chuck the Excuses

tjgraphicThousands asked Trader Joe's to encourage their "valued supplier" to improve conditions for farm workers at the farms affiliated with Bronco Winery, the producer of Charles Shaw wines. Instead of dealing with the issue, Trader Joe's sent many UFW supporters a misleading response full of half-truths and evasions.

Below is the UFW's response to their assertions:

Trader Joe’s assertion: Maria Jimenez was employed by an independent contractor, working in an independent vineyard. The vineyard supplies many wineries, but was not supplying grapes for Charles Shaw.

Reality: Trader Joe's prides itself on serving the most progressive, health conscious consumers in our society.  They should not evade the issue by pointing to contractor arrangements made by the winery to insulate itself from responsibility for exploitation of the workers. Trader Joe's needs to take moral responsibility and help end that exploitation.

Trader Joe’s assertion: The company employing the young farm worker has no more of a relation to Trader Joe's than they do to any other wine retailer or restaurant.

Reality: The facts in this case are clear:  Maria Isabel Jimenez died a tragic death while working on a farm--West Coast Farms--co-owned by Fred Franzia. Mr. Franzia is also the owner of Bronco Winery, which produces Charles Shaw wines. It is widely reported that 5-13 million cases of Charles Shaw wine is sold at Trader Joe's stores per year.

We are not denying that Maria was paid through a farm labor contractor. As attorney Robert Perez who is representing Maria's family in a wrongful death lawsuit told the Sacramento Bee, "The reason why corporate farms hire labor contractors is not to have to deal with farmworkers themselves and to shield themselves from liability."

However, the above facts need to be considered to understand the complete story. And although we have never said that Maria worked on a field dedicated to Charles Shaw, the set of relationships in play in this incident are very clear.

Trader Joe's assertion: Our vendors have a strong record of providing safe and healthy work environments and we are currently making certain that our vendors are meeting government standards throughout all aspects of their businesses.

Reality: In the case of Maria, the labor contractor she worked for had been fined for heat violations in 2006, though the state never collected the fines. They were shut down after Maria's death. West Coast Farming continues to use unscrupulous labor contractors that don't abide by the law. Last week, workers filed charges with Cal OSHA for lack of water and shade at one of the company's locations.

Trader Joe's touts its concern for safe and healthy work environments regarding its vendors. What specific steps is the retailer taking to make certain that its vendors are meeting government standards in this aspect of their businesses? Why shouldn't the retailer demand better from the contractors its vendors use?

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