New slavery investigation on: Tomato pickers continue to suffer

By Sonali Chhibber A recent New York Time article entitled “Campaign to Raise Tomato Picker’s Wages Faces Obstacles“ highlights the plights of tomato pickers amidst corporate clashes and compromises with the cooperatives.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers wants to raise the price of tomatoes to a penny more per pound. This would mean that the wages of the tomato workers would increase anywhere from $5 to $25 dollars a week. The Tomato Florida Growers, which is the main group of Florida growers, rejected this proposal and are threatening to fine McDonalds and Yum Yum foods. The Tomato Florida Growers say that the farmworkers get enough money and their wages average approximately $12.46 an hour. Yet, if that were true, that would mean that the farm workers get paid above minimum wage.

If this is so, why do the workers mostly live in trailers that are occupied by as many as 8 people? In addition, the Tomato Florida Growers maintain that the workers get free rides to the work sites. That’s laughable, as the transportation may be deducted from the workers’ paychecks. NY Times reports that when questioned, one tomato picker named Angel Afuliar said that he generally earns 40-50 a day for over 10 hours. That sounds more like more to 4 to 5 dollars an hour. This is almost one third less than what the Florida Growers claim they make!

Moreover, the tomato pickers do not get overtime pay, heath insurance, sick leave, pensions, and job security. The Tomato Florida Growers maintain that if the workers were not making enough money why would they be coming here to work? I can surmise why. Perhaps the workers don’t have any other choice? Many of the tomato pickers are migrant workers. Becoming a tomato picker is one of the only job opportunities that are available to them. Furthermore, if McDonald’s and Yum Yum foods are agreeing to pay a penny more per pound, and the money is coming out of their pockets, why are the Tomato Florida Growers hampering this? It’s incomprehensible!