by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, Co-Chairs, NoVo Foundation
When was the last time you ate a tomato? Recently, we’d guess, since tomatoes are ubiquitous in most people’s diets. But did you stop to consider who picked it for you, and under what conditions, and what it cost in human terms?
Yet the working conditions of the women and men who pick them — mostly migrant workers — have been riddled with exploitation, violence, sexual harassment and abuse for decades. On average, full-time workers pick 150 30-pound buckets of tomatoes every day, and earn about $11,000 a year in return.
Today, however, the tomato industry is undergoing unprecedented change. Growers, pickers and corporations are negotiating to clean up these abuses by ensuring better working conditions and fairer wages.
Philanthropy has played a part in this story — not the most important one, which belongs to the workers themselves, but not insignificant either. By supporting people to organize themselves, defend their rights and make their own decisions, we believe that philanthropy can play a role in the transformation of society.