UPDATED: Florida tomato industry changes position on farmworker pay

02/16/2010 11:11:08 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Lucas Benitez, a CIW spokesman, said farmworkers should have a bigger role in the grower conduct element.

"On the one hand, this shows just how far the Campaign for Fair Food has come," he said. "Two years ago, the tomato growers exchange testified before the U.S. Senate that the penny-per-pound raise was not just impossible, but illegal. Today, they are embracing the program and calling it their own.  But while a wage increase is important, it can't be a license for continued labor abuse."

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the FFVA hasn’t been that close to the controversy but said the produce industry needs to watch the issue.

“I have thought for a long time that the industry needs to be paying attention to what’s going on here because there are potential downstream implications from any type of move like this,” he said. “This isn’t limited to Florida and is something that could apply anywhere.”

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