Please allow me to submit the following letter in response to the May 18 article, “Farmworkers to Publix: A penny more can change lives.”
The article conveys the Florida farmworkers’ ongoing struggle to recruit the supermarket chain Publix to participate in the Fair Food Program. The Fair Food Program represents the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s effort to promote fairer wages for farmworkers by mandating tomato-buying companies, including Taco Bell and Whole Foods, to pay one cent more per pound.
While the article brings farmworkers’ unfair wages to the public’s attention, it portrays the issue as a simple labor dispute and glosses over the complicated relationship between Mexican immigrants and the U.S. economy. Mexican immigrants comprise 68 percent of the 3 million agricultural workers in the United States.  This makes them an ideal target for exploitation in which corrupt employers take advantage of farmworkers’ lack of education and language barrier by paying them low wages and not ensuring a safe work environment. Furthermore, farmworkers are exempt from major federal labor laws, including minimum wage and child labor laws.  This exploitation leads to cases like those seen in North Carolina, where children of migrant families suffer from green tobacco sickness and heat exhaustion while working in North Carolina’s tobacco fields.  In short, the farmworker’s struggle is beyond a mere labor dispute that can be resolved by being paid “a penny more;” their struggle calls for farmworker employers, supermarket chains, and the U.S. Department of Labor to be held accountable.
Alicja Duda, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
In response to the Miami Herald article: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/18/4123632/farmworkers-to-publix-a-penny.html
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