Make us your home page
Instagram

Coalition of Immokalee Workers secures higher wages for farmworkers

Workers pick tomatoes on a farm in Immokalee. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers pressured major chains to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes to pay field workers higher wages.

BILL SERNE | Times

Workers pick tomatoes on a farm in Immokalee. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers pressured major chains to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes to pay field workers higher wages.

MIAMI — A group representing Florida farmworkers and one of the country's largest tomato growers said Wednesday that they have reached an agreement that will finally guarantee higher pay and better conditions for the workers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has successfully pressured major chains like McDonald's, Taco Bell and Whole Foods to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes, with the extra money going to the farmworkers. But the deal remained mostly on paper because Florida growers who supply the chains balked at implementing them.

The agreement announced Wednesday with Pacific Tomato Growers will be put into practice during the current growing season, which has already begun. The company employs about 1,500 workers at the height of the season. It sets up several measures, including:

• Establishing an accounting system to pay the extra penny to workers, with third-party auditing. (Farmworkers earn about 45 cents per 32-pound bucket picked.)

• Involving workers in implementing and promoting health and safety programs.

• Creating a worker-to-worker education program on employee rights.

• Providing a system for workers to file complaints against their employers in which a neutral party can help resolve disputes.

Jon Esformes, an operating partner of Pacific, said in a statement that the company believes it is time to speak out publicly about working conditions in agriculture.

Palmetto-based Pacific is one of several companies owned by the Esformes and Heller families under the Sunripe Produce brand, and the agreement won't cover workers at Sunripe farms in California or Mexico.

"It is an absolute that farmworkers must have the same protections as people working in the white-collar world," Esformes said.

Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center in Atlanta has long supported farmworkers, said the agreement "clearly demonstrates that significant improvements can be made that benefit all parties if there is open discussion between employers and workers."

Lucas Benitez, a co-founder of the coalition, lauded Pacific for coming to the talks with "an open heart."

Benitez said the deal is in many ways a first step.

"Today, Pacific and the CIW are embarking together on a road toward real social responsibility. And if that road leads us where we think it will, it will be a model for generations of farmworkers — and farmers — to come."

Coalition of Immokalee Workers secures higher wages for farmworkers 10/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.