Senator Durbin Statement on Agreement Between Florida Tomato Workers and the Florida Tomato Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—November 17, 2010.  Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin released the following statement today after the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) reached an agreement ending a long-lasting stalemate.

“Under the agreement reached today, Florida’s tomato workers will be given their first wage increase in 30 years. And going forward, the growers will abide by a strict and transparent code of conduct ensuring that workers be treated fairly and providing them with a way to file grievances and resolve disputes. More work needs to be done, but this agreement finally puts an end to a dark chapter in labor’s history and paves the way for a new, fair, beginning,” Durbin said.

Today’s agreement comes after fifteen years of campaigning by the CIW for fair pay and improved working conditions for Florida’s tomato workers. The agreement addresses many of the CIW’s concerns about labor practices and includes a strict code of conduct, a complaint resolution system, a health and safety program, and a worker education program. Over 90% of the Florida tomato industry will be covered under this agreement. Workers will also be given their first wage increase in over 30 years.

Durbin has been highly critical of the treatment of migrant farmworkers in Southwest Florida. Many workers live in harsh conditions and are paid based on how many tomatoes they pick. Most estimate that the highest paid workers in the region earn less than $10,000 a year. As if that weren’t enough, six slavery cases have been successfully prosecuted against farm owners over their treatment of farmwokers. Since 2008, Durbin has repeatedly pressed the industry to adopt tougher work standards and provide a penny-per-pound pay increase to workers in Immokalee.

The CIW is a community-based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks modern working conditions for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international human rights standards. The CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for fundamental farm labor reforms from retail food industry leaders.

The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is an Agricultural Cooperative established under Chapter 618, Florida Statutes, providing its grower members with “limited” antitrust protection in accordance with the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922 for marketing agricultural products and other activities under the statute.