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Letter to H. Lee Scott, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Re: Florida Farm Workers

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

March 13, 2008

Mr. H. Lee Scott, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 Southwest 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716

Dear Mr. Scott:

We are writing to ask Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to consider participating in a proposed initiative to increase the piece rate paid to tomato workers. Recent reports suggest that the per bushel piece rate that farm workers in Immokalee, Florida, are paid has not increased in the past two decades. Reports also indicate that slavery cases have been successfully prosecuted against individuals in the region's tomato industry. In addition, many of us have learned firsthand that living conditions of local workers are among the worst in the agriculture industry.

In light of these concerns, we support recent industry actions to increase the piece rate paid to these workers. Both McDonald's Corporation and Yum! Brands have taken important steps to provide the region's farm workers an additional penny per pound of tomatoes harvested. Such an increase would have little impact on the bottom line of tomato purchasers but would have a meaningful impact on the lives of these workers.

Unfortunately, these two voluntary agreements have been suspended due to actions taken by the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, the trade association that represents the region's growers. The trade association has threatened their members with a $100,000 fine per infraction should they participate in such an agreement.

While the Growers Exchange has raised legal objections to the program, after carefully reviewing these objections, we have concluded they do not hold up to even minimal scrutiny. The Exchange's administrative objections are similarly misplaced. Tomato growers would incur no direct or administrative costs by participating in the program. Furthermore, the experiences of McDonald's Corporation and Yum! Brands in setting up appropriate mechanisms to pay workers indicate that the logistical challenges of the program are easily addressed.

To date, the penny per pound campaign has focused its efforts on large fast food restaurants which together purchase less than five percent of the tomatoes from Immokalee. Grocers and food service companies buy a far greater share of the region's tomatoes. We believe that companies such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. are better positioned to negotiate with the region's growers and improve the remuneration of these workers should an agreement be reached.

It is our hope that a comprehensive agreement can be reached that will satisfy the region's workers, growers, and buyers. We respectfully request that you inform us whether you would consider entering into negotiation for such an agreement within ten days. Thank your for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Richard J Durbin
United States Senator

Bernie Sanders
United States Senator

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Edward M. Kennedy
United States Senator


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