Sustaining Farmworkers

Some weeks ago I went to a talk titled Food, Labor and Justice: Fair Wage Farming and sat by the door just in case. Ten minutes into it I quietly moved to a seat up front, in the middle. And I stayed after the talk was done.

The young man presenting, Lucas Benitez, a farmworker and co-director of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and his translator, a powerhouse in her own right, Melody Gonzales, of the Student/Farmworker Alliance were rock stars except they didn't know it. The key to Lucas's success in securing the first wage increase for tomato pickers in 20 years by taking on Taco Bell, McDonald's and now Burger King is his humbleness . Although his smile and straight talk surely support his efforts.

The much celebrated wage increase that was hard fought and won by the CIW was a penny more per pound to go directly to the farmworkers. The average wage for decades has been .45 cents for a 32 pound bucket of tomatoes or two and a half tons of tomatoes picked in one day to make the current minimum wage. With no benefits or overtime.

I can't remember the last time I had to pick up 32 pounds of anything let alone toss it to somebody on the top of a flat bed truck.

This afternoon I received a link to a Thanksgiving commentary that addresses the Florida farmworker's wages which is worth reading and a link to Oxfam America to support the CIW by signing a petition to be presented to the CEO of Burger King to raise farmworkers wages.

Before heading to the kitchen to continue preparing our holiday meal I considered the men and women that handle our food and I signed the petition for Lucas Benitez, Melody Gonzales, the CIW and all the farmworkers that keep the world fed; one 32 pound bucket at a time.


tq said...

I live in a different world than these farmworkers, and don't often get to hear what it's like for them. Thank you for caring, and for providing the information. I signed the petition. said...

TQ - Thank you for signing.

Last night in London Lucas Benitez accepted the 2007 Anti-Slavery Award.