Farmworkers ask Wawa to fight labor abuse

Sheri DiCicco was picking up dinner from the express case at the expanded Wawa at 17th and Arch on Thursday. "Believe me, I wish we could find more sites to do what we did at Arch Street," Wawa's chief says. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, an Ohio-based farmworkers' union that claims 10,000 members in the Midwestern fields that supply Campbell's Soup tomatoes, Vlasic pickle cucumbers and other farm produce, sent a delegation of organizers and allies to Wawa Inc. headquarters in Delaware County today to petition the 600-store chain and its supplier, McLane Co., to use their clout as major distributors of Reynolds American tobacco products to demand higher wages and improved working conditions for "exploited" laborers on tobacco farms in North Carolina and neighboring states. 

The group met with Wawa executive relationship manager Barbara Ennis, who promised the company would review its petition, said FLOC organizer Justin Flores.

He said the union is also pressuring the Kangaroo and 7-Eleven chains to push for better tobacco worker conditions. McLane and clients like Wawa account for more than one-quarter of Reynolds' U.S. sales, Flores said.Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce did not return a call seeking comment.

FLOC waged a similar pressure campaign toward Campbell's and Vlasic in the 1980s and early 1990s, leading to ratification of labor contracts with farms that supply the companies, which the union said increased wages and added safer working conditions.