Louis Didier, Medea Benjamin, and Marie Shih, The Christian Science Monitor
Union Searches for Growth in Wrong Field
In "Strawberry Fields Become Fresh Union Battleground" (April 16) the balanced approach for which the Monitor is so renowned was sadly missing.
Contrary to the insinuation that growers do not provide fresh water and proper sanitation, California leads the nation in compliance with regulations which have been on the books since the early 1980s. The strawberry industry has the best record of compliance with these rules. As far as disgruntled workers or low pay are concerned, the vast majority of strawberry workers have rejected union representation not because of threats by the "boss" but because working conditions are good and the pay is superior. Workers average 20 percent or more above the established California minimum, which is higher than the federal minimum. The AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer's quote says it all: "We needed a national campaign that everybody could buy into. We picked strawberries." This is about money and power, not workers rights. The AFL-CIO needs bodies and dues, especially with president John J. Sweeney spending $6 million- plus during the last election. The article makes it look as if the workers are so beaten down and misinformed that they are being taken advantage of by the powerful growers! These workers, all US citizens or documented aliens, are informed, well paid, and very skilled at what they do. As for the growers, with all of the regulations on pesticides, labor laws, the INS and Border Patrol, and the specter of food safety hanging over them, do you really think they are going to mistreat their valued employees and pay them poor wages? Louis Didier Yuma, Ariz. Sweatshop wages will still fall short Your sanguine editorial "The Sweatshop Code" (April 18) fails to point out fatal flaws in the agreement on sweatshops signed by some industry and human rights groups. The agreement allows companies to continue to pay minimum wages that are often way below subsistence, instead of requiring that companies pay a living wage. While workers the world over have fought for decades to win a 40-hour week, this agreement allows companies to force workers to work 60 hours a week, and even more under "exceptional business circumstances. …