PETITION THE GOVERNOR:
The following appeal is from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers via the United Students Against Sweatshops. The latest news(not mentioned in the article below), as of 2 days ago is that the Governor of Florida has indeed agreed to meet with the Coalition, but your emails are still needed to show the Governor's office how much support the Coalition has.
Tell Florida Governor Crist to Take a Stand Against Slavery!:
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is calling on Florida Governor Charlie 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 and send an email or fax to the governor today!
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 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!
Please go to THIS LINK to send the following letter to Governor Crist of Florida.
Governor Crist: Take a Stand Against Slavery!
Dear [ Decision Maker ],
In December of last year, 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 and ugliest slavery cases ever, according to the Ft. Myers News-Press. I am writing today to demand that you use every resource at your command to ensure that it be the last slavery case ever in Florida's fields.
This latest case in which, according to court documents, workers were chained to poles, locked inside trucks, beaten, and robbed of their pay was the seventh such case in just over a decade. Indeed, so shameful is Florida's record of farm labor abuse that another federal prosecutor was prompted to call the state ground zero for modern-day slavery in the pages of the New Yorker magazine. Yet, when a reporter called your office for a comment on the most recent case, you declined to comment and instead passed the call off to the spokesperson for Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Terrence McElroy, who gave the impression that one slavery case per year is somehow no cause for alarm. Given an opportunity to clarify his statement, Mr. McElroy only underscored his disregard for the victims of this most brutal of human rights violations, terming seven slavery cases in ten years, involving well over 1,000 workers, a rarity. His comments rightly set off a groundswell of outraged reactions by human rights, religious, consumer, and labor organizations and leaders across the country.
Governor Crist, even a single case of slavery in the twenty-first century is too many. As the leader of the state and the single most powerful voice for the protection of every Floridian's fundamental human rights, you must repudiate the words of your spokesperson, and do so with no further delay.
But you must do more than that. The key to ending farm labor slavery is to eliminate the degrading and inhumane working conditions faced by all Florida farmworkers on a daily basis, as these conditions are what allow slavery to flourish. The everyday exploitation of Florida's farmworkers includes:
-Sub-poverty wages - Tomato pickers make, on average, only $10,000/year;
-No raise in nearly 30 years
- Pickers are paid virtually the same per-bucket piece rate (roughly 45 cents per 32 lb. bucket) today as they were in 1980. At today's rate, workers have to pick nearly 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day;
-Denial of fundamental labor rights - Farmworkers in Florida have no right to overtime pay, even when working 60-70 hour weeks, and no right to organize or
You must do everything in your power to ensure an end to those conditions and help lay the groundwork for a future of dignified wages and humane working conditions for farmworkers. Specifically, I join my voice to that of thousands of other concerned consumers of Florida produce to call upon you to:
1. Publicly condemn the existence of modern-day slavery in Florida;
2. Commit the full power of your office to immediately and comprehensively address the plague of abuse and modern-day slavery in Florida's fields by:
a) meeting with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and federal officials who prosecute slavery, and
b) demanding that the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange renounce its opposition to implementing the agreements that socially responsible fast food and supermarket companies have signed to insure better pay and working conditions for tomato pickers, so as to eliminate the conditions that give rise to slavery.