Tomatoes Bring Fair-Trade Movement Stateside
Meager pay, slavery conditions for pickers prompt boycott threat
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2009 11:01 AM CDT
A worker picks bushels of tomatoes in the fields at the Island Tomato Growers farm June 12, 2008 in Johns Island, South Carolina.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – With tomato pickers earning 45 cents per 32-pound bucket—the same wage as 30 years ago—fair-labor coalitions have long staged protests and boycotts. Now one of the country's biggest food-services companies is taking up the cause, the Washington Post reports. Bon Appetit says that if growers don't agree to fair labor practices, the company won't buy their tomatoes.

Growers "can do the right thing, and our 5 million pounds of business can go to them. Or they can let the tomatoes rot in the fields," said Bon Appetit's CEO. Five million pounds is a fraction of Florida's crop, but the move is part of a growing trend of considering labor practices as important as growing conditions. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers secured a 1-cent-per-pound wage increase in 2007, but that money never reached 90% of workers.