Letter: The high cost of cheap food

December 13, 2013 

The high cost of cheap food

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Kennedy cared deeply for civil rights, decent working conditions and fair wages.

Fifty years ago, farm workers earned 50 cents per bushel as noted in “Harvest of Shame”, Edward R. Murrows historic 1960 documentary.

Today, farm workers still earn around 50 cents per bushel, or less. With inflation alone this rate should be nearly two dollars. While the demand for fresh food and produce has gone up in our country, the real wages of farm workers have actually gone down over the last 50 years. This is unconscionable.

The recent documentary Inequality for All by Jacob Kornbluth calls attention to the falling wages of everyone in our country except the top 1 percent. The middle class is shrinking, and low wage workers, like farm workers, are on the rise.

The Triangle Friends of Farm Workers (TFF) gives voice to the abuses of the farm worker economy in North Carolina and to the plight of low wage workers. The TFF is holds monthly rallies at the Durham Pantry-Kangaroo convenience store at 3301 Guess Road in Durham.

This collective action supports the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in urging RJ Reynolds to improve living and working conditions in North Carolina tobacco fields. Pantry-Kangaroo stores carry many RJR products, and TFF/FLOC asks Pantry board Chairman Ed Holman to talk to RJR to end farm worker exploitation.

I’d like to think we could maintain the legacy and vision of JFK by working to ensure fair treatment of all workers, most especially farm workers in North Carolina, where our economy is made strong by the hands of workers in nearby tobacco fields.

TFF will hold its next rally at the Pantry-Kangaroo store from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Elisabeth Hargrove


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