Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fair Food Movement; Coalition for Immokkaleee Workers

[Fair food agreements establish basic standards for wages and working conditions for farmworkers, and a complaint procedure to enforce their rights. Growers who sign on are obligated to treat their employees in accordance with these standards. Fast food and supermarket chains that sign on are obligated to do business only with growers that are complying with the standards, and to absorb increased costs: one penny per pound of tomatoes. Though the agreements haven’t stopped farmworkers’ jobs from being poverty jobs, both farmworkers on the East Coast tour say they have transformed their work conditions and reduced the intensity of their economic insecurity – especially since major growers Six L's and Pacific Tomato Growers signed on last fall...

“We’ve seen many changes already,” says Perez. “We can have shade now…we can have water now.” He recalls many times before last year’s agreements when his boss would flatly tell him the company hadn’t cut him a check for his work. Workers who tried to pursue their unpaid wages would eventually give up. Since the new agreements, “We have a voice in the camps. We can confront the manager, or we can make a complaint to the coalition” to force compliance. Oscar Otcoi, another Immokalee farmworker on the East Coast tour, says before the agreements managers were “treating you like a machine.” (Perez and Otcoi were both interviewed in Spanish.)

“Before I got involved in the coalition,” says Perez, “a boss would scold me when I was in the shade or drinking water,” even in 105 degree heat. “He would say, if you want a break, get on the bus and leave and don’t come back to work for me." Now workers are guaranteed breaks where they can sit in the shade and eat and drink water. “You don’t have to eat around pesticides anymore.” Whereas he and other workers regularly used to come into work sick in order to keep their jobs, now they can stay home when they’re too sick to work.]

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