Trader Joe’s Disappoints

Trader Joe’s responded to my outrage that Two Buck Chuck was not pulled from the shelves with a carefully worded email asserting that their hands are clean because an independent contractor (Merced Farm Laborers) employed Maria and that the vineyard (West Coast Grape Farming) where Maria collapsed was owned by a company that made wines other than Two Buck Chuck.

Whoa – I did my homework here Joe and you are dancing around the truth. There is more to the story here than meets the eye and you must be aware of it.

Remember all the hoopla and media you got after you made the deal with Bronco giving you exclusive rights to distribute Two Buck Chuck. You knew Bronco had the power and ability to deliver the volume (10 million cases in the first two years alone) to meet your demand.

Let me break it down.

The Players:

Bronco Wineries – “Bronco is best known as the company behind Charles Shaw, nicknamed “Two-Buck Chuck.” Bronco created a stir in the wine industry in early 2003 by selling its Charles Shaw brand for $1.99 in Trader Joe’s Company locations and has sold more than 10 million cases during the last two years.”

Fred Franzia, called the Scourge of Napa Valley, is the head of Bronco. At Bronco’s 30th anniversary celebration Franzia boasted that “he and his family own 30,000 acres of California vineyards in 11 counties, the largest ownership of vines in the state.”

Charles Shaw is Bronco’s leading label; other labels sold by Bronco include “ForestVille Vineyard, Montpellier Vineyard, Hacienda Wine Cellars, Napa Ridge, Forest Glen, Estrella, Napa Ridge, Sea Ridge, Coastal Ridge, Silver Ridge and on-premise brands like Salmon Creek and Domaine Napa, … and a new super-value wine for independent grocers, Crane Lake.” via

West Coast Grape Farming Inc. – owner of the the vineyard Maria was working in at the time of her collapse. A public relations spokesman for the vineyard, stated that the vineyard was “partially owned by some of the owners of Bronco Wine … but not the wine company itself …”

Other reports state that West Coast Grape Farming is a Subsidiary of Bronco. A search of California Business Records reveals that Fred Franzia is the agent for service of process for West Coast – i.e. he is the one who accepts service of lawsuits and other official papers for the company.

Number: C1604050 Date Filed: 12/30/1987 Status: active
Jurisdiction: California
CERES, CA 95307
Agent for Service of Process
CERES, CA 95307

Bottom line – one or more of the owners of Bronco are making money from the vineyard where Maria died.

Merced Farm Labor is an independent contractor hired by West Coast Grape Farming Inc. to provide field workers.

So get a clear picture here about the kind of power we are talking about. Bronco Wine, the 4th largest wine producer in the United States, is owned by Fred Franzia and his family. The Franzia’s control the largest number of vines in the State of California. The top label of Bronco Wine is Two Buck Chuck.

Let’s do the math. Trader Joe’s is the sole supplier of the top label of the 4th largest wine producer in the Unites States. Since Bronco, the Franzia Famiy and Trader Joe’s inked their deal six years ago “more than 360 million bottles of Charles Shaw wines have been produced” – at two bucks a pop that is 720 million dollars of leverage.

Are you getting a sense of why Trader Joe’s has power, and responsibility, to take action to promote worker safety?

While Trader Joe’s is technically correct when they say that West Coast Farming Inc. supplies grapes for many wines, it appears that all those wines are related in some measure to Bronco Wineries and Fred Franzia. Their statement that “The company employing the young farm worker has no more of a relation to Trader Joe’s than they do to any other wine retailer or restaurant” is disingenuous and a slap in the face to “the underpaid and overeducated’ shoppers Trader Joe courts.”

Maria Vasquez died in service to numerous entities responsible for producing a cheap bottle of wine that has become synonymous with Trader Joe’s.

Shame on you Joe for not doing anything.

How you can help:

Contact your local Trader Joe’s -tell them you won’t buy “Two Buck Chuck” until they take action to insure their vendors are complying with the law.

Send a fax to Trader Joe’s corporate offices from the United Farm Workers campaign site.

Call Trader Joe’s at 626-599-3817 (West Coast) and 781-455-7319 (East Coast) and ask the grocery chain to implement a corporate policy to ensure that its suppliers are not violating the law by failing to provide basic protections such as cold water, shade and clean bathrooms for farm workers.

Call or fax West Coast Grape Farming to demand they take the necessary steps to protect workers hired by their independent contractors. Contact either Safety Director Debbie Barry, and/or Fred Franzia, partial owner, 6342 Bystrum Rd. Ceres, CA 95307 phone: 209-538-3131/fax: 209-538-4634.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Who Is Trader Joe’s « Five Husbands
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