Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
- Who We Are
are all leaders" - How and why we are organizing...
The CIW is a community-based worker organization. Our members
are largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working
in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida.
We strive to build our strength as a community
on a basis of reflection and analysis, constant attention to coalition
building across ethnic divisions, and an ongoing investment in leadership
development to help workers from the base of our community continually
develop their skills in community education and organization.
From this basis we fight
for, among other things: a fair wage for the work we do, more respect
on the part of our bosses and the industries where we work, better
and cheaper housing, stronger laws and stronger enforcement against
those who would violate workers' rights, the right to organize on
our jobs without fear of retaliation, and an end to indentured
servitude in the fields.
the people, for the people" - Who we are...
The CIW is based in Immokalee, but our
impact reaches beyond the Southwest Florida area to cover the state
of Florida as a whole. Southwest Florida is the state's most important
center for agricultural production, and Immokalee
is the state's largest farmworker community. As such, the majority
of our members are farmworkers who spend 8-9 months of the year
here in Southwest Florida then travel north on the season during
the summer months.
Many local residents, and thus many of our members,
move out of agriculture and into other low wage industries that
are important in our area, including the construction, nursery,
and tourist industries. The community is split, roughly, along the
following ethnic/national origin lines: Mexican 50%, Guatemalan
30%, Haitian 10% and other nationalities (mostly African-American)
10%. Virtually all of our members are low-income.
+ Commitment = Change" - Our Accomplishments...
This campaign, launched in October of 1997,
has brought about several historic changes for thousands of Florida
community-wide work stoppages with intense public pressure -- including
an unprecedented month-long hunger strike by six of our members
in 1998 and an historic 230-mile march from Ft. Myers to Orlando
in 2000 -- the campaign ended over twenty years of stagnant wages
in the tomato industry.
Results of the campaign include a first-ever,
community-based negotiation process that resulted in a 25% raise
for over 450 area workers, and the extraordinary intervention by
Governor Jeb Bush to bring about raises for yet thousands of more
tomato harvesters. Those raises, taken together, represent several
million dollars in increased wages every season since 1997.
In 2001, we launched a new phase of the campaign,
announcing a national boycott of Taco Bell for its refusal to meet
with farmworkers and discuss its role, as a major buyer of Florida
tomatoes, in perpetuating farmworker poverty.
campaign " - The
CIW's Anti-Slavery campaign is an innovative worker-based campaign
to eliminate modern-day slavery in the tomato fields and orange
groves of the East Coast agricultural industry. In 21st century
slavery operations based on debt bondage, workers are held against
their will through violence and threats of violence, ranging from
intimidation to beatings to pistol-whippings. In
the past five years, the CIW has uncovered, investigated, and assisted
the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in prosecuting
in three large, multi-state slavery operations based out of Florida,
and acted in as consultants on two others. In those few short years,
our efforts have resulted in: freedom for thousands of workers in
debt bondage, the successful prosecution of various agricultural
employers, the education of local and federal law enforcement, the
development of a growing base of aware and committed worker activists,
and stronger federal laws against trafficking in human beings.
This campaign, launched during the 1996-1997
season, began with a 500-worker march to a local crewleader's house
to protest the beating of one of our members here in Immokalee.
Since then, it has evolved into a nationally-recognized program
focusing on the elimination of modern-day slavery in Florida's fields.
include... the establishment of
a highly successful consumer cooperative, providing staple foods
at nearly wholesale prices and breaking the hold of the traditionally
overpriced local market; a growing, active, multi-ethnic membership
base; weekly radio programs reaching thousands of workers in both
Spanish and Haitian Creole; an innovative program of education and
leadership development including participatory video, street art,
popular theater, and community festivals; an annual scholarship
program for the children of local workers and Latino cultural festival
in conjunction with an area Spanish-language radio station... and
|In the process, we have developed
a powerful political voice for farmworkers and a presence at the national
One CIW leader was recognized nationally in November, 1998, with the
U.S. Bishops' Conference Cardinal Bernardin Award for New Leadership,
honoring "leadership in efforts to eliminate poverty and injustice
in contemporary society," and again in October, 1999, as "America's
Best Young Community Leader", by Rolling Stone Magazine
and the Do Something Foundation with the 1999 Brick
Award grand prize.
Another CIW leader received the 2000 "Women of Courage"
award from the National Organization of Women (NOW) for
her role in bringing a violent slavery ring to justice. The story
of still another CIW member is featured in a book on youth activism
entitled: "Global Uprising".