While the pay raise and protections against abuse and sexual harrasment are important, Albisa says, so is something ”harder to articulate”: a deep shift in power relations. Where once workers were berated, subjected to verbal abuse and treated as well as farming implements, they now must be treated with dignity and respect. ”It changes the way you feel and walk in the world,” says Albisa.
One example: Tomato pickers once had to show up around 3 or 4am to the town’s main plaza to be selected by contractors. The contractors would drive them to the fields, sometimes several hours away. Workers couldn’t begin picking until the dew had evaporated from the tomato plants, so they often had to wait another few hours for the sun to do its work. That meant, essentially, four to five hours of waiting on the worker’s time, not the grower’s.
But under the minimum wage guarantees of the Fair Food Program, growers must pay for waiting time – and have an incentive not to make them wait. These days, the contractors show up later to the town square, which means workers get more time to sleep and with their families.