Improve Wages and Working Conditions for Farmworkers

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Recent guest to the show, Baldemar Velásquez, founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in 1967 to help migrant farmworkers obtain fair wages and improved working conditions. You can find out more about their current campaigns at the FLOC website or by signing up for their action newsletter.

The Campaign for Fair Food is a project of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization of farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida that has taken on the giants of the food industry in its fight for better wages and working conditions.

A Tale of Two Holidays, Produced by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
By adding a penny to the pound for every pound of tomatoes from Florida sold to participating companies, the organization has raised over $10 million since January of 2011 to help increase farmworkers’ incomes. Of the five big fast food chains — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum Brands) and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one who hasn’t joined the Fair Food program. Show your support for the farmworkers by sending a letter to Wendy’s management encouraging them to sign on.

To get involved with current campaigns targeting supermarket chains like Publix, Kroger and Stop & Shop, visit the CIW’s Take Action page, where you can send a pre-addressed postcard to the corporations’ CEOs, or download a letter to the manager and bring it to their local outlet.

Background: Farmworkers are among the lowest paid workers in America. In Immokalee, where most of the country’s winter tomatoes are grown, this backbreaking work is done mostly by immigrants with few rights. Workers are often subject to verbal and physical abuse, sexual harassment, scorching heat and toxic chemicals.

Farmworkers pick tomatoes at Taylor & Fulton Tomatoes in Immokalee, Fla. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

The Coalition for Immokalee workers was formed in 1993 to fight for higher wages and better working conditions for Florida’s farmworkers. In 2001, the organization launched its Campaign for Fair Food with a national boycott of Taco Bell, which buys 10 million pounds of Florida tomatoes a year. After four years of campaigning, Taco Bell finally agreed to the workers’ demands. Since then, food giants including Chipotle, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods, Bon Appetit and Trader Joe’s have all followed suit. Now the coalition is targeting supermarket chains like Publix, Kroger and Stop & Shop.

Since the first successful campaign against Taco Bell, the CIW has never had to resort to a boycott. Instead, they work to educate consumers and ask them to help pressure their local stores and restaurants. On their website, CIW-online.org, users can send a pre-addressed postcard to the corporations’ CEOs, or download a letter to the manager and bring it to their local outlet.

To learn more about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, visit their website at CIW-online.org, or read New York Times food writer Mark Bittman’s many articles about the organization.

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