The Cincinnati Interfaith Workers rallies outside of Kroger shareholders meeting

The Cincinnati Interfaith Workers rallies outside of Kroger shareholders meeting

by Camri Nelson
Protesters outside of shareholder meeting Photo: Camri Nelson

On June 23rd The Coalition of Immokalee Workers rallied outside a Kroger meeting in response to labor law violations and the corporation’s resistance to eliminate harmful chemicals from their products.

In 2011 Kroger acknowledged that they had a problem: BPA was found in their canned goods. This colorless and odorless chemical causes breast cancer, prostate cancer, low birth rates, and diabetes. Although they had pledged to reduce the amount; a recent study done by BPA Buyer Beware shows that 62% of Kroger’s cans still contain the BPA chemical.

In addition to the food violation, farm workers employed by Kroger have complained about low wages and slave-like working conditions.

“I know what it’s like to go without water and have access to a bathroom when I need it,” stated Jolia De La Cruz, a farm worker employed by Kroger.

During the protest De La Cruz and other individuals expressed their frustration with Kroger by reciting the chants, “No more slaves, play a living wage,” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!”

Individuals like De La Cruz have decided to join The Coalition of Immokalee Workers because it is an organization that is built on the foundation of farmworkers whose mission is to promote social responsibility, and to stop human trafficking, and gender-based violence.

In 2011 the CIW created the Fair Food Program, a partnership between farmers, farmworkers, and food companies that provides living wages and promotes satisfactory working conditions. De La Cruz believes that the program would be a great solution for Kroger.

“I believe if they invested their time into researching the program, they would actually join the partnership,” said De La Cruz.

Kroger shareholder meeting protest Photo: Camri Nelson
Kroger shareholder meeting protest Photo: Camri Nelson

Mother Paula Jackson of the Church of Our Savior Iglesia de Nuestro is partnered with Kroger and believes that it is important for them to lead by example in regards to their working conditions for their farmer employees.

“Kroger lies in the common success of everyone and the success of everyone in the supply chain being protected and ensuring that labor abuse isn’t occurring,” stated Mother Jackson.

She believes that it is unrealistic for Kroger to think that she will just stand by and buy their products and not insist or demand that they do what is right.

Rachael Kartal, one participants that day, believes that if CIW continues to express the importance of quality working wages and conditions, Kroger will ultimately join the program.

“You have to believe in a vision, repetition and not give up on something you feel strongly about, and change can happen, said Kartal.

Other Initiatives

Over the years CIW has been at the forefront of the Anti-Slavery Campaign, an imitative that has helped eliminate farm slavery operations throughout the United States. They have also helped provide employment to those who were found in those predicaments.

The CIW has also formed an alliance with McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods, and Subway. These food corporations have promised to abide by the labor laws and to have food integrity.

Just recently CIW made an appearance at the Publix, a supermarket, in North Carolina for a campaign. The market’s supplier, Red Diamond, was fined $1.4 million for labor violations. 50 University of North Carolina Students, members of Vecinos Farmworker Health Program, and members of Black Lives Matter helped protest and demanded to speak to the store’s manager. In response to the protest, Publix representatives denied the accusations and made up excuses.

They did not let this situation deter them. At the end of the campaign the CIW discussed with the community plans for developing the Campaign for Fair food in North Carolina.