Lucas Benitez flew in to Westchester airport yesterday afternoon, bundled up for New York’s frigid weather and noting that it was, remarkably, 38 degrees in Florida: not enough to imperil the tomato crop but still unseasonably cold.
At dinner with teachers and fellow unionists he told of a great gain, recently inked, for Immokalee Workers, the migrant tomato pickers in South Florida.
“For years,” he said, “the growers would not pay for a box unless the tomatoes were heaped like this.” He gestured to indicate a mound way above thetop of a produce box. That meant that for every 10 boxes, the workers were picking one for no pay.
That practice is now changed: workers will be paid for an evenly filled box. And the workers will now be paid for the 45-minute training they receive on this new process.
That may not seem like a lot to those used to basic decent working conditions – such as health benefits or paid sick time – but it is a significant start.