This piece is guest-posted by George Warner, a Nation intern and freelance writer based in New York City.
Until now, the Modern-Day Slavery Museum’s biggest problem was that it was confined to central Florida. Housed in a twenty-four-square foot tomato-box truck designed to memorialize the experience of twelve immigrant migrant workers held captive in the same type of truck between 2005 and 2007, the museum is now embarking on a tour of the Northeast, stopping in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, among many other places.
The museum, opened and managed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, documents the continuous history of slavery in Florida—since 1526, when African slaves arrived among 600 Spaniards with Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón—and the modern form of slavery still rampant in the state: tomato farm workers “held against their will through threats, drugs, beatings, shootings and pistol-whippings,” as Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel described in a post last March.
The museum's central focus is on the phenomenon of modern-day slavery, why it persists and its solutions. The exhibits were developed in consultation with workers who have escaped from forced labor operations as well as leading academic authorities on slavery and labor history in Florida.
The museum is just one of the many innovative tactics that the CIW, a community-based worker organization, has used to bring its fight for legal working conditions and better wages for Florida’s tomato pickers to the public. Using the leverage of large buyers, like Taco Bell, Burger King and Publix, keen on maintaining a positive public face, the CIW has been able to achieve better pay and improved labor conditions for many of Florida’s migrant workers.
If you live in the Northeast, visit the museum when it comes to your area. And anyone can bring one of CIW’s petitions to their grocery store and make a donation to the group to help it continue its work.