Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami praised recent developments that improved conditions for workers in Florida’s tomato industry, expressing his hope that other agricultural companies follow suit in protecting the rights of their often overlooked employees.
On Wednesday, the Pacific Tomato Growers (PTG), one of the oldest and largest tomato producers in the U.S., along with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) signed an agreement establishing accountability and social responsibility protocols for the tomato industry in the state. The advancement comes after CIW's decade-long campaign for labor reforms.
The developments include a complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a third-party auditing group that ensures a "penny-per-pound” system aimed at raising farm worker wages. The wage increase initiative is part of CIW's agreements with nine major retail food companies, including McDonald's and Whole Foods.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who is also president of the Florida Catholic Conference, praised the leaders of CIW and PTG on Oct. 13.
“On behalf of my brother bishops in Florida, especially Bishop Dewane of the Diocese of Venice who has worked closely with farmworkers and growers encouraging dialogue to reach solutions, we congratulate the CIW and PTG for this agreement,” the prelate said. “We are especially heartened that the payment of the additional ‘penny per pound’ price premium to raise farmworkers wages is a part of the agreement.”
“Moreover,” he noted, “the owners of PTG show true enlightenment in calling for other agricultural companies to join in the effort and in declaring farmworkers must have the same protections as workers in all walks of life.”
“Most agricultural employers are people of good will,” Archbishop Wenski continued. “But what is significant here is that we have leaders in the industry agreeing to set high standards for protection of workers.”
“We applaud the courage and commitment of all of the leaders in these two groups who forged this agreement, which we hope and pray will lead to sustained change and new social responsibility for the industry.”