From WUSF.USF.com, Carson Cooper and Scott Finn, 28 Jun 2011.
[Tampa, FL] — In winter, Florida provides virtually all of the fresh tomatoes in the U.S. But the new book “Tomatoland” says the industry mistreats its workers and depends on slave labor.
Not so, says Florida tomato grower Jay Taylor. He says the book’s author is just plain wrong about the state’s tomato industry.
He says that contractors, not tomato growers, are responsible for the hundreds of slave labor incidents prosecuted in Florida in recent years.
“To my knowledge, in the last 20 years, there has not been a single tomato farmer associated or indicted with slave labor,” he said. “There have been a couple where a Mexican crew leader was convicted, and that conviction had the support of the industry.”
He said his workers received, on average, more than $10 a hour and received free transportation and housing.
He also criticized the “penny-a-pound” campaign negotiated between most of Florida’s tomato growers, big consumers of tomatoes, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It sets aside a penny for each pound of tomatoes for increased wages.
“They sell more tomatoes in Mexico now because of it,” he said.