For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST -- Rob Stuart and Maria Gullberg-McCadden, two members of the Treasure Coast Fair Food Chapter, an off-shoot of Interfaith Action, an advocacy group working with the CIW, were hosted by the Treasure Coast NOW chapter of the National Organization for Women at their meeting on Sept. 17 to raise awareness of the plight of tomato pickers and to promote the CIW's highly successful Fair Food Program.
A majority of Florida's tomatoes are grown and harvested in Immokalee by workers whose average household income is less than 20 percent of their affluent neighbors.
Those who work in the fields are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. They have no right to overtime pay or the right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers. They earn poverty-level wages working in the hot sun, exposed to pesticides, and often are subjected to physical, sexual and verbal abuses. The farmworkers are told to round off rather than level the 32-lb. buckets they fill with harvested tomatoes, robbing them of wages because they are paid by the piece.
To combat unfair working conditions, in 1993 the laborers formed the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Mr. Stuart and Ms. Gullberg-McCadden are working to raise awareness of the plight of tomato pickers and to promote the CIW's highly successful Fair Food Program. The Fair Food Program, which has been lauded as one of the most successful and innovative programs by the Presidential Advisory Council, ensures that farmworkers are not exploited. The Program is a partnership between farmworkers, Florida tomato growers and participating buyers that guarantees better wages and working conditions.
Growers and corporate purchasers who participate in the program agree to pay an additional penny per pound more to dramatically increase workers' pay. Currently, those companies not signed onto the Fair Food Program pay about 50 cents per 32 lb. bucket. A penny a pound more increases the farmworkers earnings to 82 cents a bucket. Those participating in the program also agree to abide by a human-rights-based Code of Conduct, including zero tolerance for forced labor and sexual assault.
Across the state, 90 percent of Florida growers have implemented the Fair Food Program. Eleven leading food retailers, such as McDonald's, Burger King, Chipotle, Whole Foods Market, and Aramark, among others, are cooperating with the program and buy only from farms in compliance with the Program. However, there are still a number of major corporations who have refused to join in.
For more information about the CIW, Fair Food Program, and to learn what you can do to campaign for all food retailers to participate as a partner, visit www.ciw-online.org. For more information about the Treasure Coast Fair Food Chapter, visit www.tcfairfood.org.
Treasure Coast NOW meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month. For more information, contact President Mindi Fetterman at (561) 909-9991, by e-mail at email@example.com, or visit www.TreasureCoastNOW.org.