Written by Sherry
Monday, 21 September 2009 17:57
From the Florida Catholic, an encouraging story of how tomato pickers on the east coast won a major battle because a farmworker organizer asked a simple question:
"Do you believe in God?"
And a businessman, who clearly did believe in God, stopped and contemplated the implications.
“I was in a meeting with Lucas Benitez, the co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (a farmworker organization that has been fighting for reform and justice since 1993),” explained Batista Madonia Jr., vice president and sales manager of East Coast Growers and Packers, and he asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’”
“Even when you’re in a business meeting and a comment like that comes to you, you have to put your business thoughts aside for a minute and look at the situation you’re in. That was the turning point in our discussion. What we do in business is a very small part of what we do in life, and we felt that although it wasn’t a decision that went with the industry, it was a decision right for our company, our workers and ourselves.”
It has been a long and convoluted struggle. Beginning with Taco Bell in 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers made great strides to get the fast-food industry to agree to a penny-per-pound increase paid to workers for a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes – from 50 cents to 82 cents – a 64 percent increase.
Problems arose two years ago, however. The strong Florida Tomato Growers Exchange threatened a $100,000 fine to any grower who attempted to pay the workers the increase. The money has been sitting in escrow accounts rather than being passed on to the laborers. East Coast Growers and Packers objected to this and eventually resigned from the exchange and partnered with the workers’ coalition."
Incredible. The money was being paid by business but was sitting in escrow and not reaching the workers?
God bless East Coast Growers and Packers.