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Mexican farmworkers' plight and the American consumer

To the editor: Congratulations to The Times for publishing another top investigative report, this time revealing the terrible working and living conditions of thousands of Mexican farmworkers. I look forward to reading the coming articles in this series. I further look forward to an improved future for these hardworking people, thanks to your reporting. ("Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables," Dec. 7)

I salute Richard Marosi for his well-written and balanced report, Don Bartletti for his revealing photos and researcher Cecilia Sanchez. Reporting this story no doubt required them to be in some risky situations.

It wasn't so long ago that this story could have been written about farmworkers here in the U.S. — and indeed, such stories were written and led to change. As conscious consumers we all can help by boycotting U.S. companies that sell food produced by workers treated this badly. Hitting them in the pocketbook will hasten change.

Ed Hieshetter, San Diego

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To the editor: I was very depressed by this article. It reminded me of Edward R. Murrow's 1960 CBS documentary, "Harvest of Shame."

It also reminded me of the experience I had in 1949 as a physician taking care of soybean pickers on the Minnesota-Iowa border. The pickers were brought to the area from Texas in open trucks with their families and housed in low Quonset huts and abandoned old farmhouses with broken windows and no screens.

It looks like there has been no improvement over the last several decades in how we treat the poorest workers. And to think that Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway financially support this is troubling.

Where is Cesar Chavez now when we need him?

Harry Shragg, MD, Reseda

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To the editor: For years I have been wary of buying produce grown in Mexico, as I had concerns about contamination.

But after reading about the harsh, inhumane conditions under which the farmworkers toil, I will now refuse to buy any Mexican produce until such a time as the Mexican growers can show they are complying with all appropriate standards.

Just as Cesar Chavez won many battles for American farmworkers by enlisting our backing for boycotts, we should again band together as consumers to fight these injustices.

Karen Yale, Chatsworth

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To the editor: I was sickened and disturbed by reading this article. The conditions these workers face are absolutely unconscionable, and we as a society should not tolerate it simply to get cheaper fruits and vegetables.

In addition to the businesses mentioned in the article — including Wal-Mart, Subway, Whole Foods, Safeway and Albertsons — I would be interested in knowing what other companies purchase fruits and vegetables from these growers in Mexico.

I will personally no longer purchase any fruit or vegetable that is sourced from Mexico. I would rather do without than support the continuing exploitation of workers who grow food for American consumers.

Michael B. Natelson, Newport Beach

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To the editor: As a regular reader of The Times for many years, I want to congratulate you on the wonderful, if heartbreaking, feature you ran on the conditions of farm labor in Mexico. As you make so clear, these workers suffer so that American consumers can buy cheap produce.

This story was in the finest tradition of the Los Angeles Times. I can't help thinking that Otis Chandler is smiling down on your staff.

Glenna Matthews, Laguna Beach

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