Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Updates ; CIW - Fighting Slavery in Florida

Immokalee is an area of Florida, known for producing a large proportion of the US`s fresh foodstuffs, particularly tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. It is home to many migrant and immigrant workers who work the fields where this produce is grown.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (formerly the Southwest Florida Farmworker Project) is a non-profit community-based organisation that campaigns on conditions and pay, as well as such issues as forced labour.

It is noted for the scale of it`s work, which has included a community radio station and a mobile Florida Modern Day Slavery Museum, and for it`s multi-agency approach, working with NGOs, law enforcement agencies, labour inspectors and with local communities.

It has won many awards, and now has good working relations with many law enforcement bodies, notably the FBI, Florida Dept of Law Enforcement and North Carolina State Troopers. It is particularly involved in working with these agencies against people trafficking and has assisted in a number of federal prosecutions.

In 2010 it reached a landmark agreement with an employer`s body, the Florida Tomato Grower`s Exchange, and it is interesting to note that both organisations saw this as the start of a new approach.

FTGE President Reggie Brown commented "this is a work in progress and this new partnership will get stronger over time...we can be certain that labour complaints will continue to arise...but it is how we deal with these complaints that will serve to demonstrate that we are serious.". CIW representative Lucas Benitez felt that the two groups were "coming together in partnership to turn the page on the conflict and stagnation of the past" to "forge a new and stronger industry."

The CIW website can be found at www.ciw-online.org .

Naturally, the CIW has a number of allies, and a few of these can be found at these sites ; www.sfalliance.org , www.interfaithact.org , www.justharvestusa.org , www.allianceforfairfood.org .

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