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Letters to the EditorFarmworkers denied 1 cent| April 14, editorial

Tomato growers' blocking of raise for pickers is shameful

A deal to give Florida tomato pickers a 1-cent-a-pound raise was derailed when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange resisted, even though the growers wouldn’t be the ones paying.

Times (1996)

A deal to give Florida tomato pickers a 1-cent-a-pound raise was derailed when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange resisted, even though the growers wouldn’t be the ones paying.

Growers' blocking of raise is shameful

Thank you for your excellent editorial on the appalling denial of a 1-cent increase for one pound of tomatoes picked by the farmworkers. As you mentioned, it would be their first increase in 20 years.

How could the leaders of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sleep at night knowing they are trying to deny these hard-working farmworkers, who put food on our tables daily, a much- earned 1 cent extra per pound? Your readers must certainly be unaware of this since they are used to paying from 99 cents to $2.99 per pound for tomatoes. When they eat a tomato, they should remember the hands that picked that tomato have not had a raise in 20 years, and are exploited.

Ironically this 1 cent does not come out of the growers' pockets but from Yum Brands and McDonald's, which agreed to pay the extra money. Why are the growers so against this extra 1 cent for those who work hard to benefit all of us, when the growers don't have to pay it? The people opposing this 1 cent surely must have gotten many raises in the last 20 years — and not of 1 cent.

I for one will contact the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange and tell them: "Shame on you."

M. McCourt, Tampa

Imagine the pickers

I was appalled at the mean-spiritedness of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which would not permit an extra penny to be given to the pickers, even though it did not cost them anything.

I would ask that group to do two things: 1) put themselves in the pickers' place and ask how they would feel if they did not get a raise in more than 20 years, while the prices of everything have risen astronomically; and 2) The next time they cut a tomato, to take it in their hands and remember that the worker who handled that very tomato was one whom they refused to give support to. That was a human being working hard to support his family. He is definitely not trying to get anything more than he deserves.

Lucy Fuchs, Brandon

Don't aid foreign growers

Florida's tomato growers have no choice but to deal honestly with their consumers, the media and their workforce — not to mention regulators at the regional, state and federal level.

Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has a Web site ( and they contend that field workers make more than $10 per hour during the tomato harvesting season. The growers certainly have their agenda: survival. The news media have their agenda, and they want union representation, heaps of regulations and ultimately much higher prices for Florida fruit.

Since the fall of trade barriers over the past 30 years, the state's big farmers have increasingly faced stiff competition from foreign citrus and tomatoes picked in places where the product quality, cleanliness and working conditions are completely unknown.

Liberal editors and publishers have already taken sides on this issue, but consumers and other interested parties can visit the growers' Web site and at least review their version of the facts.

Both sides make good points, but my point is this: If we run Florida's growers out of business, the local farmworkers lose their incomes and homes, and consumers end up supporting offshore producers with no obligation to American workers, cleanliness and product quality.

Jim Parker, Lakeland

Workers deserve more

The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange must have a hidden agenda that caused them to sabotage this meager increase. Migrant workers are the most industrious and reliable people I know. When I was a school administrator, I came into contact with many migrant families, legal as well as illegal. These people have little or no health care, no dental care, minimal transportation and very little outside help.

May I suggest to anyone who might want to help that they support the Good Samaritan Mission, P.O. Box 213, Balm, FL 33503. This is the only migrant aid I have found since I moved to St. Petersburg. It is a Catholic charity, but they take my Protestant dollars anyway.

I wish you would assign a reporter to write a series on the plight of our migrant people. Thank you for your editorial.

Hazel L. Phipps, Treasure Island

Is drug research to test or to tout? | April 13

Strict regulations govern promotion of medicines

Robert Farley's recent story provides an incomplete view of the benefits of medical advertising and research grants provided to physicians.

Farley ignores the fact that America's pharmaceutical research companies must comply with strict Food and Drug Administration requirements during the promotion of a medicine. Existing federal law is very clear: Pharmaceutical research companies must ensure that the information they provide to physicians is accurate and consistent. Detailed federal government regulations and an industry ethics code already help to make sure information about new medicines provided by pharmaceutical research companies is truthful, accurate and well-substantiated. And both federal and state authorities, including the FDA, the U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general, closely monitor interactions between pharmaceutical research companies and physicians.

Farley's story also doesn't recognize the significant gains in research and development of treatments for new diseases that grants offer in their assistance to physicians, local hospitals, medical centers, research institutions and medical schools. Atypical drugs are an important part of the retinue of treatments available to patients. To promote research on new medicines like atypicals, America's pharmaceutical companies invested more than $58-billion in research and development of new medicines in 2007 alone. Without those grants, the research advances made by those health care providers and research facilities might have been significantly hampered.

Regarding advertising, surveys show that direct to consumer advertising brings patients into their doctors' offices and helps start important doctor-patient conversations about conditions that might otherwise go undiagnosed or untreated.

Of the variety of overstatements Farley makes, perhaps the most dangerous is the assumption that pharmaceutical companies have bought off health care providers' integrity in the process of bringing a new medicine to patients. Billions of dollars worth of investments in research and development of new treatments, as well as extensive federal regulations, ensure that new medicines such as atypical antipsychotics provide the highest level of care for patients worldwide. These medicines, and development of innovative new treatments like them, are critical in order to provide physicians a wide variety of treatment options.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president, communications, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Washington

Is drug research to test or to tout? | April 13

Right medication is vital

In 1984, our 29-year-old son Dave was diagnosed with schizophrenia. At the time he was working his way through college, where he maintained an A average. The disease made him unable to work or go to school. Over the next few years, Dave was treated with Haldol and other "typical" drugs. They caused Parkinson's-type tremors, drooling and other bad side effects. He was in and out of hospitals and halfway houses more times than I can count.

Finally, in the 1990s, a new medication came on the market — Clozapine. After being treated only six months with this "atypical" drug, Dave was able to return to college and also to a full-time job.

So, no matter what any panel or review board says, I can tell you firsthand that Clozapine worked 1,000 percent better than Haldol.

Only a person who has been involved physically or emotionally with this disease can tell you how important the right medication can be.

Sue Peterson, Spring Hill

Is drug research to test or to tout? | April 13

Why target mentally ill?

Once again, persons with mental illness are the targets of sensationalism. The opening paragraph of this story begins by talking about One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Any time the media wish to draw attention to persons with mental illness, they depict the most deplorable examples, and that movie is a prime example.

Why were atypical antipsychotic medications chosen as the example of fraud and corruption in the pharmaceutical and medical industries? Certainly the same types of opportunities for abuse exist when prescribing all pharmaceutical medications (e.g., Celebrex, Lunesta, Viagra, etc.). You only have to turn on the TV, look at magazines or the newspapers to see advertisements enticing people to try the "new and improved" purple pill, or the sleeping pill with the butterfly, or a couple dancing because their arthritis is much better. The fact that these medications are also paid for by Medicare wasn't sensational enough for this article, so let's blame it on the poverty-level person who suffers from mental illness!

If you want a true, unbiased research study, ask the people taking the meds which work ones best for them. Or ask family members who see firsthand what is happening when their loved ones are on ineffective medications. See how their quality of life becomes nonexistent!

Why don't we give people the proper medication; pass insurance parity; give people a chance to improve their quality of life? It is criminal to have atypical medications available to help people with their illnesses and then turn around and take them away, leaving them even more hopeless.

"Stigma" has been replaced with pure "discrimination" against persons with mental illness!

Judy Turnbaugh, president, NAMI Pinellas County (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Palm Harbor (

Is drug research to test or to tout? | April 13

Impressive research

Congratulations on your article exposing the dark side of drug promotion for people with schizophrenia. As the author of a textbook on abnormal psychology, I was aware of the recent accumulation of evidence that contradicts previous claims of superior effectiveness for the newer generation of antipsychotic medications. What I was not fully aware of was the back story involving influence and conflict of interest on such a grand scale.

Your reporter, Robert Farley, managed to simplify the intricate web of personal, political and scientific information needed to fully grasp how large drug companies can manipulate decisions made by well-meaning psychiatrists and physicians. The level of research is such that I will be including some of this information in the next edition of my textbook. I would not be surprised if this reporting received widespread attention and future accolades.

V. Mark Durand, Ph.D., St. Petersburg

Our shabby nation

It's amazing how, in only one section of your April 12 paper — the Floridian section — you have so aptly outlined what makes most of the world view the United States through jaundiced eyes.

• While much of the world starves, our spoiled and indifferent females spend outlandish amounts of money on fashion shoes! (The wallet gets the blisters). They spend $2,700 for a pair of Louboutin pumps — can you imagine how many families could be fed for this amount?

• The article about lazy parents and what their ineptitude produces (When parents are lazy, children rule the roost) is right on target, e.g., the eight children who beat up a 16-year-old girl. After bailing her daughter out of jail, one of the mothers said to a reporter, "She's a good girl, my baby daughter."

• Masterful collaboration, the story of what master violinist Joshua Bell experienced while playing in a Metro station in Washington, D.C., mirrors just how badly our musical culture has degraded. We no longer teach our children about classical music. Thus, they have absolutely no concept of musical art.

When will America wake up? If we want to regain our good reputation in the eyes of the world, it had better be soon!

Carol Enters, Clearwater

Tomato growers' blocking of raise for pickers is shameful 04/21/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:40am]
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