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Rabbis pray for humane work conditions for tomato farmers

JTA

September 15, 2011 | 3:45 pm

Publix Supermarket in Pompano Beach, Florida

Publix Supermarket in Pompano Beach, Florida

Rabbis for Human Rights-North America took part in a prayer event in a Florida Publix supermarket to help ensure the safety of tomatoes pickers.

Fifteen rabbis and two rabbinical students took part in the prayer circle Thursday in Naples urging Publix to sign the Fair Food Agreement, a contract that guarantees that tomato pickers are working in an environment with a zero-tolerance policy for trafficking and slavery, sexual assault and child labor. It also would raise their wages by a penny per pound of tomatoes.

Publix has refused repeatedly to sign the agreement or meet with workers.

The rabbis’ group has partnered with the Committee of Immokalee, a coalition of 4,000 tomato pickers, and they plan to stage another demonstration over Sukkot urging all major tomato retailers to sign the pledge. They also used social media to help push their message. 

Nine major retailers of tomatoes, including McDonalds, Whole Foods and Subway, have signed the pledge. 

“As rabbis, we are called upon to be moral leaders,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, the director of North American programs for Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. “We cannot stand idly by as the workers who pick our tomatoes suffer some of the worst human rights abuses in America.”

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