CIW Testifies Before U.S. Senate About Present-Day Slavery in the Fields

April 16, 2008 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

At a hearing yesterday in the U.S. Senate, the Coalition of Immokolee Workers (CIW) presented their case that tomato pickers in Florida were living and working in slave conditions.

The CIW has staged national campaigns boycotting Taco Bell and McDonalds which have succeeded in winning the tomato pickers a 1 cent increase per pound of tomatoes picked. There is a current campaign against Burger King for the 1 cent increase which will converge in a mass procession in Miami this April 28 to deliver to the Burger King headquarters the petitions gathered in support of the worker’s struggle.

Here’s an excerpt from the CIW website regarding the Senate Hearing:

During the senators’ opening remarks, Senator Richard Durbin asked those in attendance to “join me in doing the math” to debunk the growers’ claim that farmworkers earn an average of $12.46/hour at a 45-cent per bucket rate. Senators Kennedy, Durbin, and Sanders were unanimous in emphasizing that the hearing marked “just the start” of Congressional inquiry into farmworker exploitation in Florida.

A report about the struggle and the underhanded tactics of the growers to undercut the previous victories of the workers can be found at The Nation. Here is an excerpt discussing the human rights abuses that can be found, not just in Florida, but in all agriculture:

It’s in this environment that a worker picks an average of two tons of tomatoes a day for about $50, or $10,000-$12,500 annually (a Department of Labor figure inflated by including supervisory personnel); where much if not all of their salaries go towards paying for trailers where 8-10 workers live together; where complaints are met with threats, beatings or worse. And when these workers – whether US citizens or immigrants, and witnesses testified that these issues apply to both – are enslaved, or forced into debt-servitude, or beaten, or sexually harassed, or not paid, or having their families back home threatened, their access to help is far more limited than that of other workers. Bauer noted that they have no right to organize; no overtime pay; no federal minimum wage law on smaller farms or in short harvest seasons; exemptions to child labor laws; and state health and safety laws that exclude farmworkers.

The CIW website has great interactive features including photo essays from the fields, videos of their actions and lots more.

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Entry filed under: Food Politics, Sustainability. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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