Slavery is alive and well in the United States, and you may be benefitting from slave labor.
1. Do you buy tomatoes?
2. Do you buy them in a grocery store?
3. Do you buy them out of season?
If you answered "yes" to two out of three of these questions, there's a very good chance you have eaten tomatoes picked by the hands of a slave. Don't think I'm putting myself on a pedestal here; I'm certainly guilty as well. But now that I have the information, I don't ever want to buy a Florida tomato again.
Ok, if you live in California, this may not apply to you...but then again, it might. Immokalee is a small town less than an hour from Naples, and is the tomato capital of the United States--more than 90% of the fresh tomatoes grown in the United States between December and May are from this part of the state. But as I read in Gourmet magazine's March issue, "The Price of Tomatoes" is unacceptable.
The population of Immokalee is nearly 25,000; per capita income is $8,500 a year. Most of the workers here are Hispanic, many are illegal aliens seeking to make a better wage here than at home. Yes, some are here illegally. But they are still human, and they are treated as less than animals--just so we can have a BLT in February.
As a Christian, I find that indefensible, regardless of immigration law.
"Lucas's 'room' [provided by his bosses was] the back of a box truck...shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so the occupents urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, [the boss] docked his pay by $20 a week. ... Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each."
He had to pay more for a shower than we pay for a pound of tomatoes. How much does your shower cost?
"Taking a day off was not an option. If Lucas became ill or was too exhausted to work, he was kicked in the head, beaten, and locked in the back of the truck. Other members of [the] crew were slashed with knives, tied to posts, and shackled in chains."
For tomatoes. TOMATOES!
Why do these workers not leave, once they realize the conditions? They can't. Their pay is docked for food, lodging, showers and other made-up exaggerated fees, so that at the end of the month they end up owing more money than they've made. The bosses take advantage of their illegal status and ignorance and fear of the law to keep them trapped, working for wages that haven't changed in 30 years.
I encourage you to read the full article at gourmet.com, and examine your own purchasing. Gourmet is not known as a bastion of crazy liberal propaganda; the article is well-researched and factual.
The fact is, you CAN get through the winter without tomatoes. During the summer, plant your own, or visit a farmers' market. (Be aware, though; some vendors buy produce from distant suppliers and re-sell them at local markets. Ask them where their tomatoes were grown. Don't be shy; think of Lucas getting kicked in the head, and compare your own brief discomfort.)
If the plight of faceless illegal aliens doesn't make it seem worthwhile to change your buying habits, check out pictures of the harvest at http://www.ciw-online.org/. If nothing else, notice that every single tomato is being picked completely green. Why are you paying $3.49 a pound for unripe, nutritionally blank tomatoes? Have a beet instead, and wait until summer to eat summer foods.
Please think about this, and spread the word.