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South Loop Trader Joe's Will Open to Fanfare and Protests

By Anthony Todd in Food on Sep 9, 2011 2:00PM

Photo by drew*in*chicago.
South Loop residents have been eagerly awaiting this day for months - they can now get cheap wine and power bars without having to go all the way to River North. Trader Joe's is finally opening in the former Roosevelt Road location of Sam's Wine and Spirits (rest in peace). But it's not all fanfare and glory - a labor and fair food organization will be protesting the opening this afternoon.

Chicago Fair Food, in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (out of Florida) is mounting a protest against the new store. Why? Trader Joe's refuses to sign a pledge that CIW claims would ensure that Florida farm workers get better wages and basic protections. The fight centers around Florida-grown tomatoes, and the CIW has been fighting to get retailers to only buy tomatoes that meet certain standards for worker rights. Whole Foods, Taco Bell and other food service companies have joined with the CIW, while Trader Joe's has not. If you're interested in more information, here's a statement by Trader Joe's about "fair" tomatoes, and a point by point rebuttal by CIW.

This isn't the first time Trader Joe's has been attacked by protests. Despite their fuzzy image, hand-written signs and wood-panelled stores, environmental groups have attacked Trader Joe's in the past for stocking a wide variety of unsustainable seafood - Greenpeace even set up a parody website, Traitor Joe's, when the grocery scored dead last in a ranking of American food retailers. TJ's, to their credit, has worked to improve their record on sustainable seafood, and Greenpeace has backed off.

The store opens this morning, and the protest will take place at 5 PM.

Trader Joe's is located at 50 E. Roosevelt Rd..

UPDATE: According to the buzz on twitter, though the official protest action is scheduled for this afternoon, some protestors have already begun to gather for the ribbon cutting.