In December of 2016, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), based out of Immokalee, Florida, received a phone call from two men who had just escaped captivity near the town of Pahokee by hiding in the trunk of a car. The two men were migrant farmworkers, working on H-2A visas, who had been harvesting watermelons for Bladimir Moreno, owner of the farm labor contracting business Los Villatoros Harvesting LLC—a business that, in reality, was little more than a modern-day slave camp. “They told of being held against their will on a labor camp surrounded by barbed wire,” the CIW notes, “working and living under constant surveillance, and earning extremely low pay.”
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
By Staff of CBS and AP - PALM BEACH, Fla. - Hundreds of protesters, many farmworkers, led by Ethel Kennedy, demonstrated near the home of Wendy's fast food chain's chairman in hopes of convincing the company to pay a penny-per-pound fee for its tomatoes to supplement some farmworkers' wages. The Palm Beach Post reports the Immokalee Coalition of Farmworker' march near billionaire Nelson Peltz's home was peaceful Saturday. A federal judge had ruled the coalition could use loudspeakers but said marchers must remain on the sidewalk.
By Meagan Dellavilla for Food Tank - On Thursday, March 3, hundreds are set to march to the office of Wendy’s Board Chairman, Nelson Peltz. Farmers, religious leaders, students, and consumers are hitting the streets of New York City to demand that the fast food giant joins the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) award-winning Fair Food Program (FFP). Regarded as one of the best workplace monitoring programs in the United States, the FFP is an innovative partnership between farmers, farmworkers, and fourteen major food retailers.
Media coverage and word-of-mouth buzz around the new documentary “Food Chains” remained strong as the story of farmworker exploitation — and of the unprecedented partnership for social responsibility transforming the Florida tomato industry today — closed out its opening weekend in more than a dozen major cities. As Thanksgiving approaches, “Food Chains” is making Americans take a second look at the fruits and vegetables that grace their holiday tables. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to take advantage of the Thanksgiving break to catch it at a local theater or on iTunes. Then add your voice to the growing conversation about food justice!
For the sake of Mexico’s workers, one can only hope that last month’s massacre sparks a social movement equal to that of the Civil Rights movement in this country that can challenge the rule of corruption and end the senseless violence of the decade-old drug wars. But until then, Mexican farmworkers will remain powerless to address the abuse and exploitation they face in the fields, and Florida tomatoes will be the only truly fair product on the market. Ultimately, it was the economic power of tourism that dragged Florida into the 20th century. The competition for the country’s growing tourist dollars in the 1960s was enough that Florida could no longer abide the shame of “Florida Terror” headlines in northern papers. Let’s hope that competition from the Fair Food Program likewise helps prod Mexico’s tomato industry to realize that the country’s violence and corruption is holding it back, and that real, sustainable economic growth can only come with peace, transparency, and lasting social justice.