Surrounding the election of the first black President of the United States, much was made of the country overcoming its legacy of slavery, leading a reasonable person to conclude that slavery is actually history in the U.S.
But, from the agricultural fields of Florida flows a steady stream of reports of migrant workers being subjected to modern-day slavery – forced labor, beatings and withholding of pay included. (According to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), in the last 10 years, 7 federal trials on farm labor slavery were prosecuted in Florida, involving 1,000 workers.)
CIW, with the help of The Alliance for Fair Food, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and other allies in the human rights movement, has been battling not only the State of Florida to take a more pro-active role in labor rights protections, but also has been taking on some of the biggest fast food chains in the world, including Subway, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King, which buy the tomatoes and other products they harvest, for better wages and working conditions.
CIW signed agreements with some of the companies on wage and conditions issues, but a statement from a Florida Department of Agriculture spokesperson in December again set off alarms that the state was underplaying the significance of the ongoing abuses in the field.
The Coalition is now asking Florida Governor Charlie Crist to step up his involvement, and have a letter-writing action on their site.
Dear Gov. Crist, didn’t you get the election night memo? Slavery is out.