Florida tomatoes go to DC

It looks like the constant work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is starting to pay off in terms of recognition. The US Senate held a hearing yesterday in which tomato growers got popped in the mouth over working conditions and their resistance to improving them.

A Collier County sheriff's investigator and other witnesses cited instances of tomato pickers being slapped or beaten, locked into tiny trailers, chained to a wooden post, held behind barbed-wire fences and forced to work to pay off debts for food and housing.

"At the rate they are paid, it's hard for them to ever get out of that debt cycle," Detective Charlie Frost said. "If they decide to leave or want more money, then there's the threat of violence."

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and other critics call such conditions "modern-day slavery."

The senators were disturbed that growers had resisted an offer by McDonald's and other major food chains to pay an extra penny a pound for Florida tomatoes to boost worker pay. The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, an industry group based in Maitland, threatens to impose $100,000 fines on growers who accept the offer.
BY the way, the CIW is correct on this--it is modern-day slavery, and it's happening in south-central Florida. The CIW has done some powerful work already, and is currently leading a national petition campaign targeting Burger King in particular to push for better working conditions and wages in Florida's fields. You can join the petition campaign at the link above.

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