On Friday 6 August, the well-known pastor Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping, together with various campaigners, called supermarket group Ahold to account. This was in the context of tackling the exploitation of tomato suppliers in the US. SOMO recently carried out an investigation of Ahold, in cooperation with VBDO.
It appears that Ahold’s subsidiary companies purchase from companies which are involved in a major slavery case. The CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) is
demanding that Ahold tackle the exploitation of its suppliers. The CIW wants Ahold to pay a fair price for the tomatoes it purchases, so that the workers who pick the tomatoes can earn a living wage. And they are demanding a say for the land workers in the control system for working conditions, in order to prevent slavery and other abuses in the future.
Ahold is not only the centre of attention in Amsterdam, it has also been the focus in the US of the tour by the ‘tomato pickers’ of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Their travelling ‘museum of modern slavery’ visited the town of Quincy, Massachusetts, where Ahold’s US headquarters are located.
Several years ago, and after many years of demonstrating and campaigning, CIW succeeded in forcing the first major purchaser, fast-food chain Taco Bell, to pay a higher price for its tomatoes. Since then, a number of major companies have changed their policies. Ahold (which owns various retail chains in the US, including Stop&Shop, Martin’s and Giant), has up to now refused to sign an agreement with the tomato pickers.
The light-hearted gathering in Amsterdam was led by Reverend Billy, famous pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping, who is on a brief visit to the Netherlands. He led a swinging, noisy ceremony, accompanied by choir members, musical instruments and campaigners, all in Ahold blue dress code.
After the first ceremony, the procession walked from Central Station to Piet Heinkade, where Ahold has its head offices, to present CIW’s campaign demands.