In an attempt to force retailers to use their purchasing power to improve worker pay, farmworkers led a 45-mile (72 km) hike on foot for five days from one of Florida’s poorest communities to a wealthy, mansion-lined town with oceanfront views.
Farmworkers claimed they marched to promote the Fair Food Program. This program has allowed companies like Whole Foods, Taco Bell, Walmart and Taco Bell to work with growers to improve working conditions and wages. They wanted to use the march as a way to press other companies like Kroger, Wendy’s, and Publix to join the Fair Food Program that began in 2011.
Tuesday’s march started at Pahokee in Florida’s poorest community. The median income for a household is $30,000. The march’s launch point was a camp in which farmworkers were forced to work for very little pay by a labor contractor, who was sentenced last year and sentenced to nearly 10 years imprisonment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the contractor took the passports of the Mexican farmworkers, demanded exorbitant payments from them, and threatened them with deportation.
The marchers arrived on time in Palm Beach, which has an median income of nearly $169,000, according to the organizers. It is lined with mansions owned by the wealthy and famous, including Nelson Peltz (Wendy’s chairman) and former President Donald Trump.
The march was organized by the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It stated that the program has made sure that farmworkers get paid for their hours; provided them with on-the-job safety measures like shade, water, and access to bathrooms; and reduced threats of sexual assault, harassment, and forced labor in fields where tomatoes and other crops are being harvested. Immokalee, a small farming community in southwest Florida’s tomato-growing region, is the site of the march.
According to the coalition, this has resulted in a decrease in turnover and an increase in productivity for growers.