Can We Afford to Pay U.S. Farmworkers More?

“The Plate,” National Geographic • March 31, 2016

Giving the 3.5 million workers picking produce on American farms a raise to match the $15 an hour many fast food workers are fighting for sounds unaffordable, right?

Not really. According to University of California-Davis agricultural labor economist Philip Martin, the likely additional cost to American shoppers of that wage hike would be about $20 a year.

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Labor Gains: Tracing the History of the Fair-Food Movement

Modern Farmer • Winter 2016

En español aquí

When Julia de la Cruz moved to the United States in 2006, she landed, as many migrants do, in a farm field. The Mexican native, who had chosen Florida because of the state’s long growing season and copious employment opportunities, found a job picking tomatoes outside a small town called Immokalee (rhymes with “broccoli”).

Long known for its harsh working conditions, Immokalee featured prominently in Edward R. Murrow’s iconic 1960 exposé, Harvest of Shame. Even in the 1980s, says Janice Fine, an associate professor of labor relations at Rutgers University, “it was the closest thing possible to hell on earth.” No one would have expected Immokalee to offer an answer to the age-old agricultural conundrum of how to balance the demand for cheap food with the need to treat farmworkers humanely. But that’s exactly the problem the town’s tomato pickers have solved.

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Victorias para el trabajador

Rancho Moderno  • Invierno 2016

Traducción de CIW
Artículo en Inglés aquí

Al mudarse Julia de la Cruz a los Estados Unidos en el 2006 ella llegó a trabajar al campo al igual que muchos migrantes lo hacen. Ella escogió llegar a la Florida debido a las largas temporadas y abundantes oportunidades de encontrar trabajo, así fue como empezó a trabajar piscando tomates a las afueras de un pueblito llamado Immokalee.

Immokalee es reconocido por las abusivas condiciones para sus trabajadores, tal como lo expuso al público el documental Harvest of Shame del 1960 con Edward R. Murrow. Según la profesora de relaciones laborales de la Universidad de Rutgers Janice Fine, incluso en los años 80 “era lo más parecido al infierno que existía en la tierra.” Nadie se hubiese esperado que este Immokalee fuera a producir una solución para la contradicción en la agricultura de querer producir comida barata sin maltratar a los trabajadores agrícolas. Sin embargo, esto es exactamente lo que hicieron los trabajadores piscadores de tomate de Immokalee.

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A Fairer Tomato

Eating Well • July/August 2015

Fair-Food Tomatoes: What Are They and Are They Worth It?

The terrible working conditions in tomato fields have become the subject of hot debate. We talked with Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and executive producer of the James Beard Award-winning film Food Chains, which is about the tomato-worker revolution.

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Florida Tomato Pickers’ Wins Could Extend To Dairy, Berry Workers – The Salt • Dec. 12, 2014

Farm workers in America have long been among the nation’s poorest paid and most abused workers. But conditions have been improving for Florida tomato pickers, and those advances may soon reach other farm fields, according to the annual report released Thursday by the Fair Food Standards Council, or FFSC, a labor oversight group based in Sarasota, Fla.

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What I learned in the garlic fields

FERN Talks & Eats • Nov. 3, 2014

Brooklyn, NY

I was honored to take part in a live storytelling event hosted by the wonderful Food and Environment Reporting Network. Below is the text of the story I performed.

Rosalinda is fourteen when I meet her. She has brown skin and black hair and eyes so pretty that even when she wears bandanas over her face in the field, you can tell she is beautiful.

Inez is fourteen, too, with the same brown skin and black hair that Rosalinda has, but her eyes aren’t as big, her smile not as wide.

They both change my life forever.

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Field Studies

OnEarth • July 8, 2014

A few early-summer visits to the local farmer’s market are usually all it takes to turn us into cheerleaders for the American farm. But if you really want to know about the current state of farming in the U.S.A. (as opposed to merely knowing the current state of this summer’s heirloom tomatoes), you’ll need some real, hard facts.

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We’ll Have the Fish, Thanks

On Earth  • May 19, 2014

Back when Gwen Clements worked at the Perdue chicken plant in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, she stood beside a conveyor belt blanketed in chicken parts for eight hours each day. Usually she packed drumsticks, but whichever part of the bird she happened to be packing on a given shift, the smell was as constant as it was noxious: a combination of raw poultry and chlorine, the latter emanating from the pathogen-killing chemical bath that the carcasses—often contaminated with fecal matter—would receive during processing. Every one-and-a-half seconds or so, Clements would grab a piece of meat with her gloved hands

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