Moldy food found at Farmer Joe’s

Farmer Joe’s Marketplace, the Oakland, Calif., organic grocery whose workers say they have been harassed and intimidated for seeking to unionize, has been selling the public outdated products.

That was the account given by consumers and the California Healthy Communities Network at a June 27 press conference outside Environmental Health Department offices in Alameda. The Network, a nonprofit, had worked with Farmer Joe’s customers over five weeks to collect some 39 outdated items.

“On May 31, I sent my daughter to Farmer Joe’s to buy pupusas [a Salvadoran filled tortilla delicacy],” said customer Francisco Ramirez. “What she brought home had been expired for 11 days, and mold was visible,” he told reporters. Ramirez said a different shopping trip had netted coconut water, a favorite of his 5-year-old son, which was 75 days beyond its expiration date.

Another customer, Juana Garcia, told how when she confronted a clerk with an outdated falafel wrap, a clerk told her, “It’s OK, you can eat it like that.”

The Network presented reporters with receipts confirming all purchases, and provided a display of outdated products it said had been bought at the store.

The Alameda County Health Agency said it would investigate the matter.

The California Labor Federation has urged consumers to boycott the store until owners Joe and Diana Tam agree to recognize the union by a card-check procedure.

How about American Vulture?

American Eagle Outfitters says it cares about workers — its Code of Conduct requires contractors to respect the right of employees to form a union. Yet workers at the warehouse contracted to ship AEO clothing in Canada faced harassment and intimidation when they tried to improve conditions by forming a union. And American Eagle hasn’t lifted a finger to enforce its Code of Conduct.

National Logistics Services distributes merchandise to American Eagle stores throughout Canada. In late April, a majority of workers at National Logistics Services in Mississauga, outside of Toronto, applied to the Ontario Labor Relations Board to have Unite Here certified as their union in order to improve their working conditions, including stagnating wages and a lack of job security. NLS hired a U.S.-based firm that orchestrated an anti-union campaign of harassment and intimidation against the 180 workers. After this campaign of misinformation, workers lost the vote for a union despite expressing a desire to form a union just one week before.

Readers can sign a petition of support at It doesn’t matter if you’ve never shopped there. You can still sign. And pass the word on.

Farm workers toil in extreme heat

Imagine picking carrots in 100-degree heat without a break or clean water. That’s what California farm workers face, according to the United Farm Workers union.

Jairo Luque told the UFW about laboring in the carrot fields: “The water runs out and they do not bring any more. Being without water is dangerous. We are not camels that can be working without water.”

Margarita Mendez said working in extreme heat is rough. “I can’t even understand how we managed to make it through, but it all came down the necessity of having and needing a job,” she said.

Grape workers say the pressure is on not to take breaks or get shade. Alfredo Alvarenga said, “There is no way to feel fatigued and take a break; you just have to keep going. They [the supervisors] cannot find you resting.”

Martin Zavala, who labors in the Mecca grape vineyards, said the temperature can climb to a mind-numbing 108-110 degrees. “The company provides umbrellas for shade — very little umbrellas. Sometimes the umbrellas are broken and the company takes three or four days to replace them.”

Growers are ignoring California’s new heat regulations, according to UFW, which is urging people to e-mail or call Cal OSHA through

Fast track dies

Fast track died last week and no one from labor shed a tear. Fast track allows the president to push through trade deals with no amendments from Congress.

Fast track has been a major anti-labor/anti-environment weapon in President Bush’s trade arsenal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), vowed to not renew fast track and oppose two key free trade deals currently on the table.

According to many, fast track has sped up all the worst aspects of globalization, including job loss, global race to the bottom for wages, privatization and erosion of environmental standards.

“But now fast track is dead. Long live the public will over fast track deals,” writes AFL-CIO blogger Tula Connell.

We’d deliver, but our bosses won’t let us

Florida and New Jersey letter carriers warned U.S. Postal Service customers that their mail delivery is being outsourced to private, nonunion carriers. At informational pickets in June, union members said these carriers hire workers at low wages and offer no benefits.

The USPS privatization policies are seen as one of the main culprits for diminishing services and hurting the whole postal system. NALC is working with allies in Congress to fight the privatization of mail delivery. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa has introduced The Mail Delivery Protection Act of 2007 (S 1457) to outlaw most contracting out. In the House, Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) has authored HR 282, which would condemn the practice and urge the Postal Service to halt the practice immediately.

Teresa Albano compiled This Week in Labor with Marilyn Bechtel contributing.



Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.