THE CORP GSC, Corp Protest Farm Labor Practices By Kata Kertesz Hoya Staff Writer

Charles Nailen/The Hoya On the shelves of Vital Vittles, Progresso’s Balsamic Vinegar has replaced Mt. Olive’s Sweet Pickle Relish.

Vital Vittles has begun a boycott against Mount Olive Pickle Company after the Georgetown Solidarity Committee notified Corp anagement of the alleged exploitation of migrant farm workers at the company’s farms.

According to Director of Vital Vittles and member of Corp upper management Kelsey Shannon (COL ’04), the only Mt. Olive product carried by the student-run grocery store is relish. “We do not stock pickles, but we do carry relish from them,” Shannon said. “At the suggestion of the GSC, we have decided we are not going to carry [them] any more.”

Chairman of the Corp’s Board of Directors Roger Gill (MSB ’02) said he could not comment directly on the boycott itself, since his position is mostly advisory, but did say, “The Corp is always willing to consider stocking suggestions from the Georgetown community and remains committed to serving students.” He said that the Corp did not generally investigate labor practices but called the cooperation between Vital Vittles and GSC a “positive move.”

The national consumer boycott against Mt. Olive Pickle Company is designed to increase wages, improve working conditions and gain a fair contract for migrant workers in North Carolina, according to the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the organizer of the boycott campaign.

Due to the exclusion of farm laborers from mediations, through the National Labor Relations Board, the only effective manner in which to call attention to the exploitation of farmers is through consumer boycotts, GSC Campaign Organizer Tim Martyn (COL ’02) said.

GSC member Ginny Leavell (COL ’05) said she felt the boycott was necessary due to the limited options for the farmers. “Farmers don’t fall under the same codes as factories so they can’t strike because they might lose their jobs, the only thing they can do is boycott.”

GSC members said they support the consumer boycott campaign. “[We are] not trying to target farmers, we are trying to put pressure on the overarching company not on specific farmers, we are trying to gain fair prices so there is less incentive to exploit farmers,” Martyn said.

Shannon said Vittles orders between $50 and $100 worth of relish each year from Mt. Olive through a general grocery supplier and that the decision to stop carrying Mt. Olive products will not affect the company’s relationship with the general supplier. “We have sold out this year’s supply of relish anyway and did not plan to order any more,” he said. Shannon said that another supplier of relish would be chosen when the product was reordered in the summer.

FLOC is holding a national week of action against Mt. Olive Company, which includes rallies, pickets and teach-ins beginning on arch 17. This week of protests and speeches marks the third year of the consumer boycott campaign against Mt. Olive. The national week of action will take place in 21 cities including Washington, iami, Florida and New York.

GSC is also playing host to the first annual Labor Awareness Week on campus which features activities, presentations and discussions on union organizing, labor movements and other labor issues to increase awareness among students, Martyn said.

One example of the activities included in LAW is the presentation of a Harvard documentary on the historic three-week sit-in that successfully raised wages for workers there.

Students and workers will discuss the high-profile campaign that received much celebrity support and present the student-made documentary on March 19, Martyn said.

According to Leavell, there are many different subjects that are interesting for many students and the goal of the week is to raise awareness.

“One of the events that is the most fun is the rally in Red Square; the Rhythm Workers Union will [make music] with buckets, drums and some other weird materials. It is a highlight and gives a lot of energy. There will also be `Global Four Square’ games,” Leavell said.

An extensive list of retailers boycotting Mount Olive Pickle Company is displayed on the FLOC Web site, including retailers in North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.

LAW activities begin March 18 and continue until March 22.

– Hoya Staff Writer Amanda McGrath contributed to this report.

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