If you could help end modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields by sending an email, would you?
1/26/09: Those of you who have followed the CIW’s work over the years know that the issue of forced labor has been a central focus of our efforts since we began organizing in 1993. So you know that we wouldn’t call for an email action campaign on slavery if we didn’t truly believe your email could help.
Today, we believe it can, and here’s why: In all the years we have been fighting forced labor in Florida’s fields, one very important player has remained stubbornly on the sidelines. Despite seven major prosecutions in the past decade, not once has the governor of our state — the chief executive who wields tremendous public and political influence over the state’s agricultural industry — said a single word to condemn this most egregious human rights violation. Three men have occupied the post in that time and not one has said a word.
Today, with your help, we are going to demand that Governor Charlie Crist take the field in the fight against slavery. In the wake of the governor’s spokesman’s outrageous comments diminishing the significance of farm labor slavery (see “background” below), the CIW is calling on Gov. Crist to commit the full power of his office to address the plague of modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields. Add your voice to this call today by clicking on the following link, where you can learn more about the petition campaign and send an email or fax to the governor today:
Background: Just this past December, federal prosecutors from the Department of Justice wrapped up yet another farm labor slavery case in Florida, a case the Chief Assistant US Attorney called one of Southwest Florida’s “biggest, ugliest slavery cases ever.” This became the seventh such slavery case in ten years, involving a total of well over 1,000 workers.
Yet, when a reporter called Governor Crist’s (left) office about this most recent 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 — not once, but twice — 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 farmworkers and consumers from across Florida and the US 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.
The letter not only calls on Governor Crist 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 CIW 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.
We will be collecting signatures, both here in Immokalee and across the country, during the month of February. If there is no response, we plan to deliver the signatures with a creative action in Tallahassee in the month of March. Stay tuned for more details on the petition in the weeks ahead, and in the meantime you can help us gather more signatures among your friends and co-workers, at your school or place of worship!
Email us at email@example.com to share with others!
Sustainable food movement calls out Crist on slavery: Slow Food USA, author Raj Patel (“Stuffed and Starved”), Organic Consumers Association and more demand Crist take a stand against forced labor!
2/8/09: Here’s a list of just some of the sustainable food organizations that have taken up the petition calling for action from Governor Charlie Crist on slavery:
- Slow Food USA
- Raj Patel
- Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
- Organic Consumers Association
- Pesticide Action Network North America
- California Food and Justice Coalition
- Just Food (NY)
- The Oakland Institute
- Florida Organic Growers
At last September’s Slow Food Nation conference, “Fast Food Nation” author Eric Schlosser asked, “Does it matter whether an heirloom tomato is local and organic if it was harvested with slave labor?” Clearly, the answer from the sustainble food movement is a resounding “No”!
Stay tuned for more to come in the weeks ahead, as the Campaign for Fair Food ramps up for a trip to Tallahassee and a visit to the governor! In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already…
Momentum is building: Religious allies join call on Crist for leadership in fight against slavery!…
2/1/09: From Presbyterian to Jewish, Methodist to Catholic, congregations from across Florida and around the country are collecting signatures on a new letter calling on Gov. Crist to “take a leadership role in ensuring that Florida’s farmworkers can live and work freely and with dignity.“
If you’d like to sign, or to help circulate the letter in your community, you can visit the Florida Council of Churches website today to see the letter and how you can get involved!
You can also find the letter at the Interfaith Action website.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Our religious traditions share a commitment to the dignity and freedom of every human person, and we believe you do as well. The Ten Commandments teach us that faithfulness to God involves fairness to all peoples in our society, and that we are to be as concerned for the wellbeing of our neighbors as we are for our own selves and property. The continued existence of slavery in our day attacks the very soul of our society, calling every one of us to awareness and action.”
The letter goes on to call on Gov. Crist to work with the CIW to eradicate slavery and abuses in Florida’s fields and to call on the Florida tomato industry to participate in the CIW’s agreements with fast-food and supermarket companies.
Blogosphere echoes CIW demand for action on slavery!
1/28/09: From the Huffington Post to Amnesty International USA and the Nation, blogs have picked up the CIW petition demanding that Florida Governor Charlie Crist take a stand on slavery.
Here’s an excerpt from the Huffington Post piece:
“Governor Crist, even a single case of slavery in the twenty-first century is too many… The Governor should, rather than deny that slavery exists in Florida, join the many other public officials who have devoted their energy and talents to ending it, by meeting with those officials and the Coalition, and by pledging the power of his office to address the plague of modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields.” read more
Click on the following links to check out the Amnesty USA post, entitled “Historic presidential race, but slavery persists in US,” the Nation piece, entitled “,” and a post from the Gone City blogger, who the penned his own letter to Crist, “An open letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist“.
Then take action yourself if you haven’t done so yet and tell Gov. Crist to take a stand against slavery!