Luchando por Comida Justa (Fighting for Fair Food)

Florida fruit pickers say Whole Foods produce may be cheaper than you thought.

For all you Whole Foodies who put your minds at ease knowing that the food you purchase is friendly to animals and to the environment, consider this: Lucas Benitez and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has targeted your beloved bastion of organic food products for their next round of negotiations to bring tomato pickers in Florida fair wages and humane working conditions.

Benitez, the director of the coalition, told an audience at UT Thurday evening that Whole Foods "is more interested in cheap tomatoes than the well-being of those working to get produce to the store."

Human rights often fall behind the environment and animal rights when it comes to concerns about what we choose to eat, even in the mind of the "responsible" consumer, Benitez said.

The coalition was behind a 2001 boycott of Taco Bell that in 2005 successfully gained a more livable working wage for tomato pickers. Before 2005, Benitez said, the pay rate of 30-35 cents per bucket of tomatoes had been stagnant since 1978.

All the fast food chains owned by Yum! Brands (Long John Silvers, Pizza Hut, A&W, KFC) followed suit soon afterward in paying their tomato farm workers higher wages. When McDonald's saw the writing on the wall in Florida, no boycott was necessary to bring their big-wigs to the negotiating table.

These corporations, however, employ less than half of the tomato farm workers in Florida. There is more work to be done and the coalition now turns their eyes and actions toward Burger King and Whole Foods.

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