Monday, July 2, 2012

Ohio allies urge Kroger to join Fair Food Program at annual shareholder meeting...

Our allies in Ohio were recently protesting outside of the annual shareholder meeting of the Kroger Corporation, the parent company of Colorado's own King Soopers and City Market.  Here a report from the CIW website:

Members of Ohio Fair Food and the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center demonstrate outside
Kroger's 2012 Shareholder Meeting in Cincinnati.

Late last month in Cincinnati, Kroger executives and shareholders gathered in the company's hometown for the 2012 Kroger shareholder meeting amid a tide of rising profits for the country's second largest grocery chain.

A group of over 75 consumers and farmworker allies -- including members of Ohio Fair Food, the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center (CIWC) and other organizations and congregations -- braved the sweltering June heat for a lively picket drawing attention to Kroger's ongoing refusal to join the Fair Food Program.

Outside the meeting, picketers engaged board members and shareholders in dialogue on the changes underway in Florida's fields -- and Kroger's refusal to support these changes. The Fair Food activists also stood in support of a shareholder resolution filed by The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, inside the meeting, one CIW ally posed the following question to Kroger CEO David Dillon, which read, in part:

"The largest fast food and food service corporations in the country are now working with the other parties in the supply chain — over 90% of Florida tomato growers, as well as tens of thousands of farmworkers — to improve wages and working conditions, and stamp out abuses, in the industry. The mechanism guiding this collaboration, the Fair Food Program, has been called a “win-win-win” proposition by all parties involved.

In the 21st century information age, supermarkets no longer sell products alone. Consumers are looking into the stories behind their food — and they aren’t complacent upon learning that the tomatoes they buy are based on the exploitation of hard-working men and women. In joining the Fair Food Program, Kroger could provide its customers with the story they want to hear: fair production — free of poverty, free of abuse.

Our question to you is: When will Kroger seize this opportunity to mitigate human rights abuses in its supply chain, give its consumers a story behind their food that Kroger can be proud of, and — if done soon — pave the way for the rest of the industry?"

In a rehash of comments made at last year's shareholder meeting and again just days ago, Dillon offered a non-response referring to unilateral "investigations" and the company's own code of conduct -- the same code of conduct in place while Kroger continued to purchase, and profit from, produce harvested for decades under conditions of poverty, degradation, and abuse.

The response from Dillon and Kroger is especially jarring given the successful implementation of the Fair Food Program on fields across the state this past season and recent reports that the rising profits lauded at the shareholder meeting are attributable, in part, to "falling costs for produce" and Kroger's penchant "for holding down prices, even as food costs rise."

Undaunted, protestors outside the meeting continued with a march to Kroger corporate headquarters before concluding the action at the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center:
After the Kroger shareholder meeting began, the protesters marched to Kroger headquarters on Vine Street, where CIWC organizers Sameerah Ahmad and Robert Pace spoke with corporate visitors to Kroger.

Back at the CIWC, Sameerah Ahmad relayed a report from the Kroger meeting on the results of the shareholder resolution. "Conditions in the fields were brought up, including widespread sexual harassment, wage theft, and sub-poverty wages in the supply chain," she said.

"The delegate called on Kroger to follow in the footsteps of 10 other corporations, and give consumers access to tomatoes free of abuse in their supply chain," Ahmad said. "The motion received thousands of shareholder votes, but ultimately did not pass.

"Kroger has yet to join the only program that can ensure its customers that its tomato supply chain is free of abuses. Obviously we still have work to do." read more
And finally, don't miss the media coverage of the day's events:

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