Sunday, September 27, 2015

Related imagePoor Mr. Trump. It seems that things are beginning to backfire for him even more. Ever since his opening statements on the first day of his Presidential campaign promises to build a wall on the Mexican border he has lost endorsements, TV shows, most Mexican voters and a few key associates. Trump fired his chief political advisor Roger Stone who in a Tweet said he quit. I wouldn’t build a wall in front of anyone who wanted to come to this great country. I would document each and every one and make sure they had a job and paid taxes. They all want a job and a safe place to live.
This time of year is harvest season for the north east but in Florida it is picking season all the time and they need the workers there willing to make a fair wage. The problem is that for years there was nothing fair for the migrant worker. Trump should be talking more on how we can become a more fair and vibrant country to the world. Most news of our workers re of harsh conditions and poor wages. It is time that things get turned around for our farm workers so that every piece of editable food can be picked for someone to enjoy and be fortified.

Related imageFor decades the tomato farms of southern Florida were well known for their terrible working conditions. The area was known for sexual harassment, wage problems and child labor. Now there is a growing grass root program that is working to make things better there. It is costing us a   little more at the checkout but the benefits are helping the poor workers make a better living. People have been discussing the migrant worker problem for 50 years. In 1960 there was a show called Harvest of Shame that for the first time showed America the poor conditions these people had to work in. It was a Edward R. Morrow documentary. Farmers said that we used to own our slaves, now we just rent them.
Americans were so horrified by what they saw that Congress passed new labor laws but little changed and no one enforced them. In 1985 Dan Rather reported another story called Harvest of Shame. He emphasized that the conditions were still horrible. There are about a million migrant workers in the United States. Towns like Immokalee swells every winter with workers looking for work. Farms in Florida grow 90% of the tomatoes we eat in the winter. A group formed the CIW the Coalition for Immokalee Workers to take care of worker’s rights.  For 7 years the CIW tried marches and strikes. Tomato farmers refused to talk to them.

Related imageIn 200 the CIW began to pressure fast foods and grocery corporations. In 2005 these buyers with clout like Taco Bell signed on to the CIW’s Fair Food Program. Buyers agreed to pay an extra penny per pound for tomato. The money would go to workers. More than a dozen fast food chains and retailers like KFC, SUBWAY, Pizza Hut, Whole Foods, signed on to the program. Recently, McDonald's, Trader Joe’s and last year Walmart joined in the group which sells 20% of the nation’s tomatoes. Walmart was featured in the 2014 documentary called Food Chains. Tom Leech a Senior VP, of Walmart said they are proud to pay more to help the workers. Now the tomato farmers finally got the message to stop the mistreatment of their workers.

Now there is a Fair Foods Counsel that is an independent group that inspects participating farmers and holds them accountable. There is zero tolerance for forced labor, child labor and sexual harassment. They will provide mandated shade. The supermarket chains have not signed up into the program.  The large corporations who have signed up have generated $20 Million dollars for the workers according to the Food Standards Council. That translates to a typical food picker worker an additional $60-80 dollars per week.  But nationally 58% of all U.S. farm workers make less than $20,000 per year according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 25% of them live in poverty.

Mr. Trump should be picking on the billionaires like himself who eat the tomatoes the poorest people in America pick for him. The penny extra a pound program is having a big impact for the poor people of America. It has taken 50 years for the people of America to ignore the farmers and work for the people and help them directly. The program needs to expand to every crop in the country and help any worker who wants to work here.

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