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July 2017, Volume 23, Number 3

Florida, Southeast

Florida. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers takes credit for detecting and helping to prosecute eight cases of slavery on Florida farms. After failing to persuade tomato growers to raise piece rate wages, the CIW boycotted fast-food chain Taco Bell until it agreed to require growers of the tomatoes it buys to abide by CIW-regulations to protect workers and to pay a penny a pound more for the Florida tomatoes it buys.

The CIW's top-down approach to changing conditions for farm workers by dealing with buyers evolved into the Fair Food Program, which now includes 14 major tomato buyers and most major Florida tomato growers. However, not all of the tomatoes that these growers produce are covered by the FFP.

A federal judge in May 2017 found that Consolidated Citrus Ltd. Partnership was a joint employer with Ruiz Harvesting, a farm labor contractor that hired Mexican H-2A workers to pick Consolidated's oranges in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Workers sued Consolidated and Ruiz in September 2010, arguing that they did not receive the minimum wage; Ruiz settled with the workers in 2013. Consolidated appealed; the May 2017 ruling makes Consolidated jointly liable for Ruiz's violations.

Georgia. Georgia has a million immigrants, making 10 percent of the state's 10 million residents foreign born; about 40 percent of the state's migrants are believed to be unauthorized. H&W Farms has used the H-2A program to obtain seasonal workers since 1999 to harvest onions for $0.45 a bucket.

North Carolina. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 by renewing pressure on Reynolds to require tobacco growers to recognize FLOC as bargaining agent for their farm workers. FLOC has had a collective bargaining agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association since 2003 covering most of the 10,000 H-2A guest workers that NCGA brings into the state each year to work on tobacco and vegetable farms, but only 20 percent of the workers pay dues (North Carolina is a right-to-work state).

FLOC in 2017 negotiated a new three-year CBA with the NCGA. FLOC maintains an office in Monterrey, Mexico to assist and educate workers when they are in Mexico.

A 2012 survey of 163 Mexican H-2A workers who were employed in tobacco found that almost all were married and 93 percent had less than a secondary school education. Sixty percent worked more than 40 hours a week, and a quarter were paid piece rate wages.