Fighting Slavery in Florida
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in conjunction with the Campaign for Fair Food have chalked up some new victories in their fight against slavery in Florida. The campaign came to my attention when I was idly reading a Gourmet magazine in a waiting room. The article outlined the terrible conditions that some farm workers endured in the tomato fields of Florida. The enslaved workers escaped their enclosure to tell the world of their plight. Prosecutions followed.
Four Immokalee family members were sentenced Friday in federal court for enslaving and brutalizing nine migrant workers.
The two bosses, Cesar, 27, and Geovanni Navarrete, 22, each received 12-year federal prison sentences for enslaving Mexican and Guatemalan tomato pickers.
The brothers pleaded guilty in September to what Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy called one of Southwest Florida's "biggest, ugliest slavery cases ever.
Many of the workers picking tomatoes are illegal immigrants who are victimized by unscrupulous labour contractors.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has gained the support of giant food service company Compass Foods Corporation who joins other large corporations like Taco Bell, McDonald's and Burger King in agreeing to pay more for tomatoes so that the field workers can earn a living wage.
The latest action by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers was to picket the Publix supermarkets in Florida to convince them to pay more for tomatoes.
About 50 farmworkers and supporters of Immokalee farmworkers picketed a Publix in Naples on Saturday morning, calling for the Florida-based grocer to pay more for tomatoes and take a stand against inhumane conditions for tomato pickers.
During the N. American winter months, the majority of fresh tomatoes sold in the U.S. and Canada come from Florida.