Gerardo Reyes, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, 239-657-8311
                       Jordan Buckley, Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida, 239-986-9101

Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum to Tour State, Explore Connections Between Past and Present and Offer Solutions to Human Rights Crisis in the Fields

Museum to visit schools, places of worship, and community centers from February 28 to April 15

Immokalee, FL (February 24, 2010) – The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum consists of a cargo truck outfitted as a replica of the trucks involved in a recent slavery operation (U.S. v. Navarrete, 2008), accompanied by displays on the history and evolution of slavery in Florida. The museum's central focus is on the phenomenon of modern-day slavery – its roots, the reasons it persists, and its solutions. The exhibits were developed in consultation with workers who have escaped from forced labor operations as well as leading academic authorities on slavery and labor history in Florida.

The museum was conceived of by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the human rights award-winning farmworker organization that has aided in the prosecution by the Department of Justice of six farm slavery operations and the liberation of well over 1,000 workers. The museum is endorsed by many leading human rights and anti-slavery organizations, including Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International, respectively the largest human rights organization and the oldest human rights organization in the world.

“Slavery in Florida agriculture today is not separate from the past – indeed, its roots extend deep within our state’s history.  Farmworkers have always been, and remain today, the state’s poorest, least powerful workers,” explains Gerardo Reyes of the CIW.  “If we are to abolish slavery once and for all in Florida agriculture, we must pull it up by the roots by addressing farmworker poverty and powerlessness.”

Dr. Patrick Mason, a professor of economics and director of the African American studies program at Florida State University notes, “For too long, political representatives and ordinary citizens have ignored the recurring instances of enslavement in contemporary Florida. Indeed, for too long, there has been insufficient light shining in on the low pay and indecent working conditions of agricultural workers in this state. The mobile Florida Modern Slavery Museum is impressive and imaginative approach to shedding new light on these old issues. There is much we can learn from this endeavor and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the enlightening organization responsible for this educational tour.”

Dr. Kevin Bales, the Pulitzer-nominated author and president of Free the Slaves, an internationally-respected anti-slavery advocacy organization, adds, “There is real slavery in the fields of Florida. This is not about lousy jobs, but violent control, vicious exploitation, and the potential for serious harm and even death. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that there has never been a day in the history of Florida agriculture without some amount of slavery tainting the food grown there. That food leaves the hands of slaves and ends up in the meals we eat with our families.”

He continues, “It is an ugly problem and we cannot solve problems we do not understand. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is one of the most effective anti-slavery groups on earth. Their new traveling museum helps all of us learn what we need to know in order to bring this crime to an end. This is a living museum that restores the right to life.”

The museum tour will culminate as the box truck leads the CIW’s Farmworker Freedom March from  April 16-18, when hundreds of farmworkers and their allies will march from Tampa to Lakeland, headquarters of the Publix supermarket chain.

About the Coalition of Immokalee Workers:
The CIW is a community-based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, with over 4,000 members.  The CIW seeks modern working conditions for farmworkers and promotes their fair treatment in accordance with national and international labor standards.  Among its accomplishments, the CIW has aided in the prosecution by the Department of Justice of six slavery operations and the liberation of well over 1,000 workers.  The CIW uses creative methods to educate consumers about human rights abuses in the U.S. agriculture industry, the need for corporate social responsibility, and how consumers can help workers realize their social change goals.  The CIW's Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for fundamental farm labor reforms from retail food industry leaders, with the goal of enlisting the market power of those companies to demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers. 

For more information, visit

### END ###