Lucas Benitez arrives in New York for STTP live event

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Related article: Classroom web event features human rights defender Lucas Benitez

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.

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