When Dora worked at the Livonia packing plant, she packed tomatoes, peppers, and other produce all day. She didn't mind the hard work-- she minded that the managers wouldn't let her use the bathroom. She was pregnant and had morning sickness, and was forced to vomit into a trash can right on the packing floor. The managers yelled at her, and the other workers too-- "They treated us like animals," she said, "After a while, they made you think it was normal to be treated like less than a human being."
Then the accident happened. Ammonia started leaking from the plants massive cooling system, causing the factory to fill with toxic fumes. Some workers tried to leave, but they were locked into the cafeteria. The managers opened some windows, and forced everyone back on to the packing line. Workers became dizzy, nauseous, and some even passed out. Still the managers kept the line going. The sick packing workers even had to pay for their own ambulance and medical treatment.
Oh, and the food? It was sold to the public.
Workers have also documented:
-Failure to pay workers their full wages, including one woman who was not paid for 200 hours of work;
-Forcing injured workers to remain on the packing line, including one woman who was bleeding from her leg after being hit by a forklift;
-Constant verbal harassment and threats during work;
-Being forced to disguise low-quality product as "gourmet."
The owner of the plant, Mastronardi Fruit Packing, has a long history of abusing their workers. Managers have refused to negotiate with workers or make improvements, so a coalition of current and former workers have filed a class action class suit to demand wages that were stolen and better working conditions.
Trader Joe's has made a good business by advertising itself as an ethical corporation. But how does this responsible image square with the treatment of the workers who actually produce Trader Joe's food?
Please ask Trader Joe's to do the right thing and ensure that the workers who supply their food are treated with justice, dignity, and decency. If their suppliers don't shape up, Trader Joe's should cut their contract.