Slavery in Florida

From the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida comes this appeal. Click here to do the needful, and see the full appeal below.

If you could help end modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields with an email, would you?

Please take a moment to send an email to Florida Governor Charlie Crist, asking him to take a stand against modern-day slavery in our food system.

Just this past December, farm labor supervisors were sentenced in federal court for enslaving tomato pickers, including beating, chaining, and locking them inside a truck at night. Unfortunately, this case is not the only one; since 1997, the U.S. Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted seven cases of slavery involving well over 1,000 farmworkers in Florida. Additional cases are currently under investigation.

Furthermore, those farmworkers who are not enslaved face sweatshop conditions every day. Workers earn an average of only $10,000 per year and have not received a real wage increase since 1978. They have no right to overtime pay, no benefits of any kind and no right to organize or collectively bargain.

When a reporter called Florida Governor Crist’s office about this most recent slavery case, the governor declined to comment and instead passed the call off to the spokesperson for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Terrence McElroy, who gave the impression that one slavery case per year is somehow no cause for alarm.

For decades, the silence of Florida’s governors in the face of the brutal exploitation of the state’s farmworkers has allowed that exploitation — up to and including modern-day slavery — to persist.

Join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based farmworker organization, and consumers nationwide in telling Governor Crist that now is the time to break the silence and ensure that this latest slavery case is the last slavery case ever in Florida’s fields.

Click here to take action.

Additional background info.:
Fortunately, there is hope for eliminating slavery and ensuring a future of dignity in the fields. Yum! Brands, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Whole Foods Market have all reached precedent-setting agreements with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve tomato pickers’ wages and enforce codes of conduct for fair conditions in the fields, including zero tolerance for modern-day slavery. Yet, while the marketplace has recognized basic standards of fairness, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has blocked the implementation of these agreements.

The email to Governor Crist not only calls on him to publicly condemn the continuing existence of modern-day slavery, but also to demand that the Florida Tomato Growers’ Exchange end its efforts to nullify the agreements reached between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and leading fast-food and supermarket purchasers of Florida tomatoes to improve farmworker wages and working conditions, the conditions that provide the fertile soil in which modern-day slavery takes root.