When working conditions are ripe for change | WBEZ
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Reveal

When working conditions are ripe for change

About one-third of the fresh tomatoes sold in the U.S. come from Florida. Mainly migrant workers from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean hand-pick the tomatoes in or near the town of Immokalee, just north of the Everglades.

For decades, Florida tomato pickers endured some of the worst working conditions in America. Beatings, rape and sexual harassment were common problems. Often, there were no toilets, shade or clean drinking water. Work hours were unpredictable and wages were extremely low. There were even cases of slavery.

In 1993, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers began to organize. At first, it focused on ending slavery in the fields, then expanded its work to deal with wage theft and abuse. In 2001, it launched the Fair Food Program. The group brought about change by pressuring large retailers to use their market muscle to demand higher standards from suppliers.

Host Al Letson and producer Jonathan Miller of Homelands Productions travel to the Sunshine State to tell us what happened after the tomato workers organized, pushed for reform and got the public to help.  

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