Photo Credit: Richard Perry
Author: Steven Greenhouse
Published In: New York Times, April 24, 2014
Summary: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has gotten growers that produce 90% of Florida’s winter tomatoes to increase wages and improve working conditions.
Why We’re Highlighting This Article: When up against huge corporations, the large supply of farm day laborers in the United States usually don’t have a lot of leverage in negotiating better working conditions or higher salaries. But one Florida coalition of farmworkers banded together to demand improvements in workers’ rights–and has found success in the tomato fields.
Greenhouse starts the piece by explaining the problem through the narrative of one of the pickers, a woman who used to have to wait in tomato fields for four hours every morning, unpaid, until she was told it was time to clock in and start picking. Other workers dealt with screaming crew leaders, no rest breaks during long shifts, and scorching heat.
The social response involved the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of tomato workers, that fought successfully for the “Fair Food Program”–policies that include increased wages for their 30,000 workers and adherence to standards involving mandated rest breaks, and banning of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
Greenhouse’s solutions piece looks at why this is an improvement, who benefits, and whether these policies could be expanded to other areas. (Currently, the Fair Food Program only applies to Florida’s tomato fields–but it’s still a meaningful policy change because 90% of the country’s winter tomatoes are grown in the state.) Connecting with Walmart–which sells 20% of the nation’s fresh tomatoes throughout the year–proved very valuable in that the corporation plans to extend the program’s standards and monitoring to suppliers in other states. It also looks at implementation: it’s not just that these policies were approved, but they have actually been enforced: [Read more...]