Monday, August 28, 2006

How 'Bout Them Tomatoes?

Who is picking your tomatoes? And how much is he or she getting paid for it?

That is what the folks at Sojourners would like you to consider. Soujourners, whose mission is to "articulate the biblical call to social justice," recently issued a call for its members to let McDonald's know that its customers are paying attention to how tomatoes get from Flordia fields and into their Big Macs.

According to an e-mail sent by Soujourners, McDonald's has refused to play ball with a farm workers organization, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, "CIW." The CIW seeks higher wages and a code of humane conduct for its farm worker members.

The CIW reached an agreement last year with Yum Brands (Taco Bell). See Yum Brands' "Supplier Code of Conduct" and its Supplemental Policy Statement for Florida Tomato Growers.

Consumers pressuring industry to improve working conditions, welcome as it is, is nothing new (think Kathie Lee Gifford's sweatshop fiasco). But could this renewed attention to treatment of farm workers, coupled with fast food outlets advertising for example, "natural chicken" (anyone else seen Chipotle's billboards advertising "natural chicken"?) signify a growing attention to how the food we eat gets from field to mouth? If so, what is that attention going to mean for agriculture?


Blogger envirolawgirl said...

This issue of who gets paid what to put produce on our table is a very interesting issue but I wonder how many people in America actually associate that idea of low paid workers, immigration, and the food they consume? How many of those workers who pick those tomatoes are here legally? Does that make a difference? And if it does, should it? My personal opinion is that regardless of citizenship any person doing the work should be paid a fair wage. But I must assume, with the raging debate about deporting 11 million people, I am in the minority of people who feel that way. Another question to address is how many Americans actually know where their food comes from? Do they realize that it is an American product picked under “sweat shop” type conditions? Or do they believe that type of thing only happens over seas? It is clear by the amount of meat consumed from McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, etc. that few people realize that they are actually ingesting meat from animals pumped full of antibiotics that spend their whole lives living in their own feces. So it would surprise me if even 25% of the population was aware of these low paid workers. As with many issues of this nature I think that boycotts and opposition from a select few organization will be ineffective without first giving the masses the education they need to speak intelligently on the matter.

8/28/2006 3:00 PM  
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