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Sometimes it feels as if the good guys never win, the game is fixed and working people always will be screwed.  The rich get richer and the poor get screwed.  So a victory is important to keep people's hopes up.

Nearly 15 years of struggle by many made this victory possible:

After fighting for more than a decade for better wages, a group of Florida farmworkers has hashed out the final piece of an extraordinary agreement with local tomato growers and several big-name buyers, including the fast-food giants McDonald’s and Burger King, that will pay the pickers roughly a penny more for every pound of fruit they harvest.

Farm laborers are among the lowest-paid workers in the United States, and the agreement could add thousands of dollars to their income.

After Long Fight, Farmworkers in Florida Win an Increase in Pay

Though the hamburger chains and others agreed to the increase years ago, the money they have been paying — an estimated $2 million now held in an escrow account — could not be distributed to tomato pickers until the state’s largest trade association, which acts as a middleman, agreed to lift a ban preventing their farms from passing along the extra wages.

That happened in November, when the farmworkers’ group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a trade association, completed details of a code of conduct that included not only the wage improvement but also guarantees of increased workplace protections — like minimum-wage guarantees and a zero tolerance policy on forced and child labor — for the laborers.

After Long Fight, Farmworkers in Florida Win an Increase in Pay

15 years of fighting, but it led to a victory:

The Immokalee agreement is a result of a 15-year campaign for better pay and working conditions for the roughly 33,000 tomato pickers in the state. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers represents about 4,000 of those workers, but the agreement will cover all tomato pickers who work for growers that are members of the trade association, as well as those employed by independent farms participating in the agreement.

After Long Fight, Farmworkers in Florida Win an Increase in Pay

You cannot win unless you try.  They tried and fought for years, through dark days and hopeful ones, and in the end, they prevailed.

There is a lesson we all can learn from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Update I: From Richard Trumka's speech today:

It’s a funny thing, when the firefighters arrived at the World Trade Center on September 11th and started that long climb up the stairs to rescue the bond traders trapped on the upper floors, it didn’t occur to any of them to call up and ask, "What’s it worth to you for us to come and get you?"

So how did we come to the point where our country’s ruling class thinks that firefighters like Stan and teachers and nurses are the problem, and people like Lloyd Blankfein and Rupert Murdoch are the solution?

Remarks by Richard L. Trumka, President, AFL-CIO

Those are the same workers the bond traders now seek to take pensions away from.  

Update II: And this by Trumka:

We are ready for vision, and we believe in the President’s vision of a nation that is strong because we are just and true to our values. A vision for a national future founded on the profound truth that social justice and material prosperity are not competing values--they are necessary to each other.

Remarks by Richard L. Trumka, President, AFL-CIO

Update III: From MrJayTee's comment below, a link to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  Please contribute if you can.

Originally posted to TomP on Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 07:34 AM PST.

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