About one-third of the fresh tomatoes sold in the U.S. come from Florida. Mainly migrant workers from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean hand-pick the tomatoes in or near the town of Immokalee, just north of the Everglades.

For decades, Florida tomato pickers endured some of the worst working conditions in America. Beatings, rape and sexual harassment were common problems. Often, there were no toilets, shade or clean drinking water. Work hours were unpredictable and wages were extremely low. There were even cases of slavery.

In 1993, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers began to organize. At first, it focused on ending slavery in the fields, then expanded its work to deal with wage theft and abuse. In 2001, it launched the Fair Food Program. The group brought about change by pressuring large retailers to use their market muscle to demand higher standards from suppliers.

Host Al Letson travels to the Sunshine State to tell us what happened after the tomato workers organized, pushed for reform and got the public to help.

DIG DEEPER 

  • Video: Courting Foodies: The Modern “Fair Food” Movement.
  • Read: 5 ways to combat sexual abuse of female farmworkers.
  • More: An event that helped spur ideas to stop the abuse.

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.