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Tomato workers and resistance (ONLINE DISCUSSIONS)

April 4, 2012

Describe specific strategies employed by workers and their supporters and why you think they were effective

End April 10, 2012

  1. Anna Chrisman 11143058 permalink

    There are many strategies used by organizations like The Coalition of Immokalee Workers to help bring justice to the tomato workers. Their goals are to use consciousness, pressure, and consumer pressure to create change in the work environment. They use the internet to help people gain consciousness. They have a youtube page with many informative videos to help show what they do, and what is wrong with the tomato workers wages and environment. This is effective because it lets people know what they stand for. If people don’t know what is going on, they can’t help to change it. By using the internet to get information about their cause out there they may gain support, fame, and support for their organization. They use their videos to put pressure on the viewers. Pressure to help, donate money, or at least spread the information. This is effective because not only do people know what the cause is, but how they can help. An example of how they used consumer pressure was in the video we watched in class. A small group of people that had worked in the fields or supported the coalition joined outside a grocery store demanding that they put pressure on their tomato suppliers to raise wages for the workers. By putting pressure on consumers to not buy products unless they have good working environments they come closer to people changing the way they pay their workers. They video taped this and used it to employ consciousness and pressure as well. I think that these strategies are effective if they get any company to demand better worker wages before they buy the tomatoes. The more people that know and care about it, the better influence they will have on the industry.

    • Greg Wandro permalink

      These are all excellent tactics to raise awareness. The problem with how agricultural workers are treated is that most people do not know of the conditions in which they work. They could possibly assume that the only thing unfair, is the salary of the workers. But by putting pressure on the consumers and companies and increasing public awareness and telling the public what they could do to help the cause, the CIW could make a big change for agricultural workers.

  2. Jake Hiller permalink

    In order for workers to fight for and receive fair wages, attention must be brought to the topic of minimum wage and workers rights. The fact that people put in hard work and are not paid even the minimum wage for that work is a major problem in some industries. But by putting pressure on employers in different ways, it may sway public opinion and eventually lead to a change in the industries that need it. In order to make money, employers must have people that want to work for them or their company. If people that accept these jobs in America do not feel that they are being adequately celebrated, they may decide to look for work elsewhere. Although this is often very difficult for workers to do because they may not have the resources available to find another job in time to make certain payments, it would certainly put pressure on employers. An employer is nothing without his or her employees.

    • Michael Anderson permalink

      Another issue that comes mind when talking about some type of workers strike is the fact that there could be some plantations that hire or recruit workers illegally from other countries, most often Mexico. Many workers would like to get out and look for other work but cannot since they are illegal. This is a tough issue because you could make the argument that these illegal immigrants are choosing their own consequences by coming here to work. Either way it seems odd that their are so many farms that are getting away with such poor wage distribution.

      • Josh Tyler permalink

        In response to your “workers strike”, I am not to sure that you realize that a lot of the people that work for these tomato farms cant strike because they are their only source of reliable income. Taking away their income while on strike is something that can permanently damage a family. Even though they might only be out of work for say 1 week, that’s a whole week a family goes starving because their only source of income is on strike.

  3. Connor McGee permalink

    I believe that publicizing the issues of unfair wages and hours needs to happen in more effective ways. I can use myself as an example… before taking this class, I had hardly any knowledge of unfair working conditions, wages, or hours. The news does not always go into much detail about it, as if they want to keep these truths on the down low. I had never thought it possible for a person in America to be earning maybe $10,000 a year. Now that I know about these sad but very real truths, I think it would be smart to get them out there. Change can only happen if people are aware of the problems that are happening. I would have never thought people in our own country were in need of fairer working conditions until taking this class and being educated about it; seeing as I am a fairly average American, I think it is safe to assume there are tons more people in the same position I was before I took this class. They are unaware it is even happening because the media and the people who run their companies do not want people to know; they do not want to jeopardize getting customers and selling their products.

    • Trevor Harper permalink

      I agree, I have been surprised by the amount of issues that are within the american borders, that have been brought to my attention during this course. For a country that thrives on the notion of freedom, it is alarming to see the extent of unfair working conditions, wages, and hours that are going on. As Connor stated, I to was unaware on a majority of the issues, that I am now aware of. I do think that these issues, and specifically the issue of the tomato workers needs to be brought to the publics attention as effectively as possible, so the population is educated on the issues at hand, and can help to bring fairness to the issue. With that being said, I do think the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have done a good job on addressing the issue.

  4. Hailey Pusich permalink

    Like Connor I was unaware of the issues going on with tomato workers and their conditions and wages. While I knew of harsh labor conditions in other countries I did not know this was happening in the United States. The one organization that we learned about in classe, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, is the only strategy I know of that tomato workers and their supporters have been using to try and get fair wages and working conditions. It is appalling to me how little tomato workers make in a day and a year. How they survive on such little money and such poor working conditions is almost inspiring and I admire them for that. But it is still not fair that they are being paid so little. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have effective strategies like YouTube videos and campaigns and posters and such but I don’t think it has reached its full potential of effectiveness because I had never heard of it until this class and I don’t think I’m the only one. What is really going to be effective is if the Coalition of Immokalee Workers starts getting people to care. In order for change to happen it is going to take more then a group of people, its going to take thousands of people to get justice for these tomato workers. By spreading awareness and consciousness and by pressuring the grocery stores, restaurants, and other business that buy tomatos is the only way we will get through to the consumers of the tomatos and those are the people that have the power to change this situation by maybe just paying one more cent a pound so that the tomato workers earn double a bucket. This change will lead to greater changes and that is an effective way to get justice to the tomato workers.

    • Logan Mayes permalink

      elaborate on your statement that they are not receiving a “fair wage”. The requirements to perform the job are the lowest possible. You must simply be a functioning able bodied human being and that is all. Therefore there is likely a large surplus of labor willing to accept this job which as a market force should actually decrease wages over time (which it has).

      • How do race and nation impact surplus populations? How are wages impacted by this process? What constrains your claims about supply and demand?

  5. Matthew Zimmer permalink

    These issues were something I was also blinded from, the media and other places has kept it pretty hidden. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is one of several organizations that puts it’s work into helping tomato workers. They have employed the use of videos to convey their message in a concise and persuasive manner. With the help of social media, like Youtube they have been able to get their message out to anyone and everyone who is willing to watch and listen. This method is particularly effective because it will catch the eye of news stations and other major media. If a cause can make it on the news, there are no limits to the support it can receive.
    Another strategy employed by the different organizations is protesting and picketing outside of the businesses like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King. Although this is the traditional method for getting the word out, it is less effective because it limits the range of the message. People recycle or throw out fliers handed to them, and sometimes they completely ignore the individuals trying to make a difference. Also, people will still go to fast food restaurants even if protesters are outside yelling about the injustices being performed by the industries. All this in mind, this method has it’s own effectiveness. With fliers and signs people can stop and chat with protesters to see what is going on, something you can’t do with a video. Videos tell you one sided stories, but the people on the street corners can answer your questions instead of needing to wait and sit pondering.

  6. Trevor Harper permalink

    Tomato workers and there supporters such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have employed strategies that have proved successful in bringing more fair working wages to tomato workers. One strategy that has been very effective is the use of videos. These videos were done in such a way, that anyone that watches it would have a hard time walking away and not wanting to do something to help the tomato workers. The videos and articles on the website do a good job highlighting the issues of violence and unfair wages the farmers deal with. Putting videos and articles out on the internet is a very effective strategy, with the widespread use of internet. The information is easily accessible to anyone. Also, the use of protests outside of stores I believe to be very effective. By doing this people are able to see farmers and supporters in person. It brings the issue to life that much more and makes it more real to see them in person, versus seeing an article or video online, which are both also very effective.

  7. Hannah Zabel permalink

    The truth that we must become aware of is the fact that tomato workers and other farming workers are ruthlessly exploited; this truth is one I was not aware of until taking this class. I feel like the media hides the truth about how we receive the goods we use everyday. We are purposely uninformed of the hardship and abuse these workers go through so we continue to consume at the rates. I was completely unaware of the conditions these workers are under such as, the long hours that they are forced to work, and the low wages they receive. One group that I became aware of is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. This group has used technology such as Youtube to broadcast the issues that have been kept unknown from the world. This has become very effective because in this day and age, one video can become viral and spread across the global in a matter of minutes. This groups’ goal is to spread the truth what is going on and to raise awareness to as many people they can. This issue must become known and aware to the world and the best and most effective way to go about it is to become viral just as this group had been doing.

    • Logan Mayes permalink

      ruthlessly exploited might be a stretch considering they are not enslaved. Please elaborate on this ruthless exploitation.

      • Actually as noted in class there have been many instances of documented and prosecuted slavery

  8. Grant Schultz permalink

    Like many in this discussion I was not aware of these issues going on inside the American borders. Especially since I come from a small farming community and my family for many years have made its living off the land. When watching the video about Tomato workers in class it really made me take a second look at how we personally run our farm. Even though workers on our farm are paid much better then ones on a tomato farm, I realized that they are still underpaid. This is an issue that will only be resolved with time and media attention. The media or viral is the only way I can see this issue ever being resolved. One issue that will probably keep this unfair wages continuing into the future is some of these tomato farmers recruit illegal immigrants. When an illegal immigrant comes and work they are trap they can either work for low wages or be deported. This makes it so the workers can not do much to bring this to the attention of the public. This just reinforces that there will not be a change in the tomato workers’ wages till the media takes control. Or maybe if the public causes a stir like it did with the Kony video this could also grab the attention of congress. The fact that these people are just asking for a penny a pound so how small of sacrifice everyone would have to make to make countless lives better. The super markets will not make a change until the consumer demands it. They have already shown that they do not care about the working conditions of workers. If we want to see a change we will all need to take this issue to heart and demand a change.

  9. Josh Tyler permalink

    Tomato workers fighting for their wages is nothing new in that industry. Tomato workers have been bargaining for new wages for many years. With the help of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers they have put together campaigns to petition for better worker rights and better pay. But the truth is, has it really even worked? The workers are continuing to fight for better wages and better rights, but it hasn’t been working for them. I feel like the best way to approach the situation is to take the actions of the workers to congress in order for the laws to take affect in their working conditions. Set up a system that monitors their hourly rates and wages, put limitations on the amount of hours they can work in a week and so on. They really need to find an answer because it will not be solved unless someone or some bill is brought up to the higher authorities and some sort of laws are implemented.

  10. Todd Mehrkens permalink

    Tomato workers are being exploited by many workers and it is extremely hard for them to rebel. Many of the workers go into the industry because they need to support their families and even though they know about these horrible wages, they still accept it because a job is a job and at the end of the end of the day you need a job to provide some financial help for their family. Because the workers are so dependent on having a job, they don’t want to risk losing it through some type of campaign because they don’t want to risk losing their job. With all that being said the most effective way to support the workers, should have the goal to make changes to the industry without effecting the worker’s employment. There are many strategies that were used such as campaigning outside of markets and fast food restaurants, making YouTube videos, and getting articles posted online and in the newspaper. Out of all the strategies the most effective strategy that also helps to protect workers by not stating names is using videos on YouTube. By making YouTube videos it is a form of communication which can reach more people in different areas, which helps spread the message faster. When people use local protest and articles, it limits the amount of people which makes it less effective. Another advantage of using videos is that when people watch the videos they can actual see how hard the labor is and the workers/ their families that are be ripped off by consumers by not even getting paid minimum wage. By being able to put a face to a problem, people tend to get more attached, thus using videos will get more supporters to help the cause.

  11. Logan Mayes permalink

    The Immokalee workers probably do deserve a raise, however many factors seem to be keeping them form such a thing. For one I think simple economics are effecting the Immokalee workers plight. if you consider their labor, which can be done be any able bodied human, there are probably a lot of people that would enjoy having this job. If you put that factor in terms of supply and demand this would mean that there is a surplus of supply and limited demand. This is a natural market force that effects wages and in this case it should cause them to fall. So the fact that wages have been stagnant when you add inflation is somewhat realistic. Also the workers are demanding only one cent more per-pound. At first glance this seems miniscule as a cent is the lowest divisible amount of currency. However they are paid by multiple pound buckets so in reality their pay raise would be much more. Also its been argued that the consumer would not feel the wage increse in the tomato prices however if this was the case it seems like the companies selling the tomatoes would increase the prices simply to increase profits and not wages. It is more likely that the producer has reached a tipping point or equilibrium where the consumer is paying the maximum possible price without reducing demand and overall profits. The biggest incentive at this point seems to be propaganda, and the producer must decide if the cost of possible boycotts and a bad image is worth the wage increase.

    • What makes free market an illusion? Do you really think this is an unskilled labor?

  12. Katie Beason permalink

    Tomato workers wages are clearly too low. This issue is problematic, however, because often the circumstances around the workers limit them to speaking up about this issue.
    For example, often these workers are immigrants whom are working illegally trying to support their families who traveled here with them. Because of this, if they make their situation apparent to those who could change it, this could risk that they become deported. Therefore, despite their poverty and low wages, they do not speak up because low wages are better than returning to where they came from.
    With that being said, there have been many efforts to better this without effecting the workers livelihoods. Some strategies that were used were things like campaigning through making online videos, standing outside of community centers like markets to raise awareness, and having messages posted in online newspapers and journals.
    The videos have become the most effect way that these workers are reaching out to spread their message. This is because, as many say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than telling people about what was going on, these videos were able to physically show viewers the circumstances that these people work in. In addition, these videos are greatly accessible all over the world by millions of people and are able to spread fast. Being able to personalize this issue is a great advantage to the workers’ cause because this is what evokes emotion and support from fellow humans. It is one thing to make them aware of something that is happening to people who they don’t know, but to show them actual people they can identify with and see how they are living evokes compassion and often is upsetting, which is what sparks change.

  13. Something that I think has helped the CIW with their attempts to gain both media attention and more pay is using social media. While by no means do I think the tomato workers make what they should, I think the small successes the CIW has made were made possible by their successful videos on Youtube and political demonstrations. Something I do find interesting if not slightly off topic is how the same success the CIW had could not happen in China. Because of China’s grip on social media and censorship I find it unlikely that any such workers rights groups would be able to achieve what the CIW did with its videos. Hypothetically any Chinese workers that tried to do the same things would be fired, and possibly prosecuted for violating China’s laws. We can easily see then that because America allows such demonstrations the CIW was able to mount an offensive that gained social support for them via the media. I think that it is possible to assume then that although the workers may not yet have the fair pay or rights, that their location here in America still benefits them tremendously. Whether they realize it or not, they have access to the social media which can help them achieve their goals.

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