1¢ per Pound for Tomatoes? That’s What Farm Workers Get

Today’s price for “vine tomatoes” at Amazon Fresh is $4.69/pound or Romas from Mexico are $2.71/pound. Safeway Online is selling the Romas for 66¢ each and the vine tomatoes for $1.10 each.

What about the farm worker who picked those tomatoes? David Lively, Organically Grown Company, told us in this week’s interview:

But the reality is, we have all these people who grow and harvest our food and yet they can’t afford to buy anything they produce.

Most of the tomatoes sold during the winter months are grown in Florida. The workers who are picking the tomatoes on the shelves today are paid 45¢. Not per pound of tomatoes, but for a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes.

They are not actually paid a penny a pound, it comes out to 1.45¢ per pound. Regardless, a farm worker needs to pick more than ten buckets of tomatoes to buy the one-pound carton of fresh tomatoes from Amazon or just under 10 buckets for four of the same tomatoes from Safeway.

Farm workers picking strawberries in California are earning just about the same. In California, seasonal workers are guaranteed minimum wage, but to earn overtime they must work a 6-day, 60-hour week.

We are not just talking about the employment of seasonal workers, but the employment of a chronically under skilled group of workers. Workers in the sustainable agriculture of the future will need to be better educated, yet the industry provides very little opportunity for training. We are only just now seeing a few progressive growers address the basic needs of their workers: adequate housing, safe working conditions, educational opportunities, and health care.

To learn more, watch the following video, One Penny More. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is asking supermarket chains and retailers to pay an additional 1¢ per pound for tomatoes and verify that the extra money goes directly to the pickers.

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