Also, 2009 proved a landmark news year for Florida tomato industry workers.
East Coast Growers and Packers Inc., Mulberry, Fla., broke ranks with much of the Florida tomato industry by entering into a penny-per-pound agreement with Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
Although foodservice operators and retailers — including McDonald’s and Whole Foods — had agreed to paying a penny more for each pound of tomatoes picked, East Coast was the first major grower to enter into an agreement with its field workers.
In June, shortly after garnering support from two growers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers began pressuring Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla., to participate in deals to increase pay for Florida tomato pickers.
The Sept. 10 announcement came after months of discussions with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
July marked a decision by six Democratic senators to take the card-check provision out of the Employee Free Choice Act as a ploy to move the bill through the Senate.
Six senators in July decided to remove the card-check provision to secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes.
The provision required companies to recognize unions when a majority of workers sign cards in favor of organization.
The revised bill mandated elections be held 10 days after 30% of employees signed cards in favor of representation.
The Department of Labor on May 29 suspended the final rule that took effect Jan. 17 and announced a new wage rate formula for the H-2A program, undoing months of industry work and input on changes to the guest worker program.
On May 14, six years after it was first introduced, the Agricultural Job Opportunity Benefits and Security Act of 2009 was reintroduced to Congress.
In March, a proposed nine-month suspension for the new H-2A guestworker program rules that went into effect in January.