For decades, Florida's farmworkers have faced terrible abuses and brutal exploitation. Workers frequently earned sub-poverty wages for toiling sixty to seventy hours per week in season; some have even been chained to poles, locked inside trucks, beaten and robbed of their pay. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) was founded in 1993 to take on these abuses.
The Nation has written about the CIW many times before. A community-based worker organization that helped expose a half-dozen slavery cases and trigger the freeing of more than 1,000 workers, the CIW advocates on behalf of seasonal workers in Florida for higher wages, better living conditions, respect from the industry and an end to indentured servitude.
The CIW has been remarkably successful in convincing the country's four largest fast-food companies (McDonald's, Yum Brands, Burger King and Subway) and three of the largest foodservice providers (Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo) to sign Fair Food agreements with the CIW, securing higher wages and numerous workplace rights for Florida's tomato pickers. These agreements have made a real difference in people's lives.
My colleague Greg Kaufmann recently detailed the CIW's latest victory—a hard-fought agreement with Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the five largest growers in the nation with more than 14,000 acres in the United States and Mexico, which stands to increase workers’ annual earnings from about $10,000 to approximately $17,000.
Now, the coalition's focus falls squarely on the $550 billion supermarket industry. With the exception of Whole Foods, which signed an agreement with the CIW nearly two years ago, the US supermarket industry plays an active role in farmworker exploitation. Publix, Ahold, Kroger and Trader Joe's all pack a particularly heavy punch given their market power in the produce industry, and all of them are refusing to address the same workplace exploitation issues its corporate brethren have made peace with.
This new video demonstrates the brutal conditions these supermarket chains are being asked to redress.
Then, take out your calendar and save two dates: This coming spring, farmworkers from Immokalee and allies from across the country will be gatherin, not once but twice, to call for fair contracts for farmworkers.
Help spread the word about this campaign and send the message that it's high time for the supermarket industry to join the growing movement for Fair Food.