Californians know that the best tomatoes grow here, where the soil and dry climate are pretty much perfect, and not too far from the climate where they first evolved. But most of the U.S.-grown tomatoes sold in grocery stores and used in fast-food restaurants come from Florida. Why? The full saga is spelled out in Barry Estabrook’s book “Tomatoland,” but this op-ed by Mark Bittman does a pretty good job of summing it up.
For years, the agricultural workers who pick the tomatoes in Florida have been fighting for better wages and working conditions — numerous lawsuits have shown that many live in conditions that fit the legal definition of slavery — by going after the wholesalers who buy tomatoes and getting them to sign on to pay an extra penny a pound for the product so that money can be funneled to paying workers a fair wage.
First they started with the fast food chains, like Taco Bell and McDonald’s. Now they’re moving on to the grocery stores: Whole Foods has already signed on, but Trader Joe’s hasn’t budged.
And so on Sunday, after a rally at the Center for Political Education on Valencia Street, a group organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers went on the march to Trader Joe’s.