Saturday, November 18, 2006

Latino Farm Workers in the US & Their Road from Literal Slavery

-- Immokalee is home to the largest farmworker community in Florida, the majority of whom are from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. --

*Coalition of Immokalle Workers (CIW): community-based worker organization whose members are largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage agricultural jobs throughout the state of Florida.

Modern Day Slavery Revealed in Florida

** In 2002, three Florida-based agricultural employers convicted in federal court on slavery, extortion, and weapons charges were sentenced to a total of nearly 35 years in prison and the forfeiture of $3 million in assets. The men, who employed over 700 farmworkers, threatened workers with death if they were to try to leave, and pistol-whipped and assaulted -- at gunpoint -- passenger van service drivers who gave rides to farmworkers leaving the area. The case was brought to trial by federal authorities from the Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) after two years of investigation by the CIW.

** In 1997, two agricultural employers were prosecuted by the DOJ on slavery, extortion, and firearms charges and sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison. The slavers held over 400 men and women in debt bondage in Florida and South Carolina. The workers, mostly indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans, were forced to work 10-12 hour days, 6 days per week, for as little as $20 per week, under the constant watch of armed guards. Those who attempted escape were assaulted, pistol-whipped, and even shot. The case was brought to federal authorities after five years of investigation by escaped workers and CIW members.

Taco Bell Boycott by Farmworkers Shuts Down 22 Stores

The four-year boycott has grown in recent years largely due to support from college students. Twenty-two colleges had successfully removed or blocked Taco Bell from operating on their campuses.

In 2005 Taco Bell agreed to increase the amount it pays for tomatoes by a ONE CENT per pound, with the increase to go directly to workers' wages. Taco Bell also said it will help the farmworkers' efforts to improve working and living conditions. Today, workers earn the same as 30 years ago, about $50 a day for picking two tons of tomatoes from 6:00am - 6:00pm.

CIW was awarded the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and have been comended by former US President Jimmy Carter. If these voiceless people can do it, anyone can do it!!

Their new targets . . . . McDonalds!!

ABOVE VIDEO: Ronaldo McDonaldo went out to the fields himself to see if farmwork was really as hard as everyone complained it was (5 mins).

25 min documentary --> Immokalee: From Slavery to Freedom

Read About CIW & Their Dream to Build a Farmworker Community Center (to include, among other things: Computer lab, independent radio station, and anti-slavery office)


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