Over the past two decades, Trader Joe's has grown rapidly as bargain-hunting foodies swarmed into its outlets. The chain now runs more than 350 stores with sales topping $8 billion in 2009.
The secret to its dazzling success? Fortune magazine describes the retailer as "an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience."
Equally important, Trader Joe's business model is based on offering a limited selection of high-quality products at very low prices. By restricting its inventory, it's able to effectively wield its purchasing power and demand deep discounts from its suppliers.
Unfortunately for farmworkers, it is precisely this type of high-volume, low-cost purchasing that has created strong downward pressure on wages and working conditions as suppliers look to cut costs in order to maintain profit margins. Supermarket chains may not have created farmworker poverty, but they continue to play an active, and profitable, role in perpetuating it.