The farmworkers who harvest America’s commercial tomato fields chalked up another success last week. Barry Estabrook, James Beard Award–winner and author of Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, begins his report at Civil Eats this way:
The struggle for labor justice in the fields of the United States—and perhaps far beyond—took an historic stride forward [on January 16]. At a folding table in a metal-clad produce packing shed beside a tomato field in southwestern Florida, two high-ranking executives from the giant retailer Walmart, which sells more groceries than any other company in the world, sat down beside two Mexican farmworkers and signed an agreement to join the Fair Food Program.
Originating as a solution to the atrocious working conditions in Florida’s $650 million tomato industry, which included several cases of abject slavery, the Fair Food Program was created by the Coalition of Immolakee Workers (CIW), a human rights group based in Immokalee, Florida, the state’s largest migrant workers’ community.
The program is unique in that it creates a legal framework linking laborers, tomato farm owners, and final purchasers of tomatoes. The purchasers, which include such giants as McDonalds, Whole Foods Market, and Sodexo, have agreed to pay an additional penny per pound for the tomatoes they buy. In turn, the producers pass that penny directly along to the workers. A penny-a-pound might sound like a pittance, but it represents a 50 percent raise, the difference between making $50 and $80 a day.
For the full story, including links, head here.