Farmworkers Rally for Higher Pay and Canada Frees Up Foreign Aid

Farmworker Freedom March

Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou.

Farmworkers rally for higher pay

Workers’ rights activists who took on fast-food giants such as McDonald’s and Subway are now battling one of the largest supermarket chains in America, Florida-based Publix.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)—a farmworkers rights group from the South Florida town—is demanding that Publix pay a penny more for each pound of tomatoes that workers pick. In April, hundreds of farmworkers joined other supporters in a 22-mile march through Florida, ending in Lakeland, the headquarters of Publix.

The penny-per-pound increase would almost double workers’ daily pay—currently about $50 for picking an average of 4,000 pounds of tomatoes per day. Along with demands for higher pay, CIW­—which is made up mostly of Mexican, Guatemalan, and Haitian immigrants—has been educating the public on the human-rights abuses migrant workers face. Employers are required by law to pay farmworkers minimum wage, but CIW co-founder Lucas Benitez told WUSF-FM that many growers find ways around the regulation.

The push against Publix is a part of CIW’s “Campaign for Fair Food,” which started in 2001. Since then, McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, KFC, and others have agreed to the penny-per-pound hike. Publix would be the ninth company to do so.

In an interview with WUSF, a Publix spokeswoman said that farmworkers’ complaints should be directed at their employers, not the grocery store.

—Jeff Raderstrong is a Washington, D.C., writer who blogs at


Rev. Samuel Rodriguez“The angst and trepidation in our communities is unprecedented. ...

This is our Selma.”


The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, at the March for America immigration rally in Washington, D.C.


Canada frees up foreign aid

The practice of “tying” aid is common to many developed nations, including the United States: Most countries insist that a major proportion of their foreign assistance be used to purchase products and services from the donor nation. The United Nations reported in 2004 that tying aid cuts its value by 25 percent to 40 percent, harming local producers and farmers who can’t compete with cheap or free imports from the developed world.

After lobbying efforts by Engineers Without Borders, among other organizations, Canada in 2008 decided to take a first step toward effective foreign aid, when the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) announced a complete untying of all food assistance. So development assistance for food projects—CA$230 million in 2008—could pay for food from anywhere, not just Canada. That means food aid destined for one developing country, for example, could come from another country on the same continent, using local infrastructure and labor and boosting that economy, rather than Canada’s.

Organizations such as Oxfam America are organizing similar efforts to make U.S. aid accountable to the global poor.

—Jeff Raderstrong is a Washington, D.C., writer who blogs at


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