Advocacy & Activism, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Regulations & Compliance, Rights

Training is Sign of Better Day in Tomato Fields

From Blog.AFLCIO.org, James Park, 5 May 2011.

Lucas Benitez of the CIW, left, and Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sign the historic agreement last November, as Gerardo Reyes of the CIW looks on.

Lucas Benitez of the CIW, left, and Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sign the historic agreement last November, as Gerardo Reyes of the CIW looks on.

“It’s like a time machine has suddenly whisked us from a Charles Dickens workhouse to an auto plant in the 21st century. The difference in attitude is that great.” That’s how one tomato worker, a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), reacted to a new training session for employees of Pacific Tomato Growers.

In the training, the first-ever of its kind, workers who pick tomatoes learned they are entitled to a minimum wage and breaks, what constitutes a full bucket of tomatoes and what to do if they have a complaint.

Writing for the Atlantic, Barry Estabrook, former contributing editor for Gourmet magazine, says the training is one of the first results of the historic agreement reached last November between the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) and CIW.

The agreement is taking effect in two stages. This growing season (2010-2011), all participating FTGE members will pay a penny more per pound for the tomatoes picked. At the same time, CIW and two growers, Six L’s and Pacific Tomato Growers, will hammer out a process for enforcing the code of conduct throughout the industry. The code will apply only to Six L’s and Pacific this season. Even though it does not go into full effect until the 2011-2012 season, the agreement already has had a lasting impact on the tomato industry.

Check out the article “Tomato Schools: Undoing the Evils of the Fields” here.

Source: Blog.AFLCIO.org, “Training is Sign of Better Day in Tomato Fields” by James Park, 5 May 2011.

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