Last week the Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced that Subway, the nation’s largest fast-food buyer of tomatoes, had joined Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Whole Foods in a partnership with the CIW to enforce labor standards and raise tomato pickers’ wages. All those corporations fought tooth-and-nail against the CIW until their insistence on prioritizing profit over poverty and slavery became too embarrassing. The tomato growers in Southern Florida appear to have no shame whatsoever. They are still stubbornly refusing to honor the deals, and the workers’ wages are backing up in escrow accounts.
Still-President Bush, ever the underminer of hard-won social movement victories, lent the growers and plantation owners across the county a helping hand in suppressing the rights of farmworkers yesterday, making devastating changes to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program in the middle of night. Via Vivirlatino.
The changes are horrible. At a time when the jobless rate is at a 15 year high, they reduce obligations for growers to effectively recruit U.S. workers before applying to bring in guestworkers for these jobs. They lower the wage rates for all farmworkers by changing the program’s wage formula and, in an industry known for labor abuses, they eliminate or reduce government oversight.
Let’s make sure the Obama administration reverses these changes, or even better, works with farmworkers to improve conditions in the fields. The CIW has already asked him (scroll down) to come visit Immokalee, but as far as I know he hasn’t responded.