Saturday, April 4, 2009

Our trip to Immokalee with the farmworkers!

On Saturday, April 4th a dozen Muslims drove two hours south from Tampa Bay to visit members from "Coalition of Immolakee workers" CIW in Florida. We spent the entire day learning about their exploitation and getting first hand education at the way they live and work. We met Nelly,Oscar and another leader. Most of the farm workers are from Guatemala, Mexico and Haiti. All suffering the same injustices.
No real raise in 30 years.

I came out of interest for Latino migrant workers. I had no idea of the mistreatment that they were under. But I left with a indignation at their misery and a deeper sense of the impact it had not just on Latinos but human rights violations. It crossed racial and religious borders.
A few years ago a man escaped from a truck that had workers chained during the night and let out during the day to work for the same boss. He alerted authorities who had the owners arrested.
Another time a man who had been beaten by one of the growers contractors came to the coalition with blood streaming down his shirt after a beating. In response the entire town refused to board buses to go to work to show that if they beat ONE man they beat all of them. This unity strengthened the coalition and made the farm workers understand the meaning of "United we stand, divided we fall". Al hamdulilah

These workers come to the USA under different conditions , not all are illegal, some left their countries due to civil unrest, others for asylum while others have visas. All fall under the category of Economic Refugees. As Muslims we are ordered to support them. Our beloved Quran says in 4:135
"O ye who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against ourselves, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor."

The come vulnerable and there only desire is to work and care for the their families. If everyone would just go to the website read more about their plight we could educate others and turn things around. This fight is not their fight this fight belongs to all of us. Muslims and non Muslims must understand that NO one has the right to mistreat another.

Special thanks to Unaiza Malik of USF for organizing the trip. It educating us on Modern Day slavery here in Florida. It also allowed Muslims to get involved. Not to fight for the farm workers but to join them as a Human Rights issue. I am so proud of Heather Vega taking a lead and all the wonderful people that fight for the right to work under respectful conditions with dignity. Imam Mohamed Al darsani of The Islamic center for Peace met us there and encouraged us to take the fight back to Tampa Bay and educate others. We won't let him down. Do expect to read more updates here and to see pictures from our historic Muslim trip to visit our brothers and sisters there. "None of you has faith unless you love for your brother what you love for yourself" Hadith
Khadijah Rivera.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a farm worker led organization in Florida made up primarily of people from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. They organize to receive a higher wage for the work they do-- primarily picking tomatoes but also in the citrus industry-- and for better working conditions that exclude the threat of physical abuse and forced labor, i.e. modern-day slavery. The current pay and sweatshop working conditions are elements that give way to slavery.

Florida tomato pickers currently receive 40-45 cents for every 32lbs. of tomatoes they pick. This wage hasn't changed in the past 30 years. The CIW has assisted in the successful federal prosecution of 7 cases of modern-day slavery in the last 11 years. In these cases workers were held against their will to work, trapped into indentured servitude, and physically abused. Over the years, since the beginning of their formation which began approximately in 1995, the CIW has realized that those that have the most power to make these changes in the tomato industry are the large tomato purchasers (fast food, supermarkets, food service provider purchasers); and that they are largely responsible for these working conditions and pay. When the CIW started the Campaign for Fair food they began with Taco Bell; calling on them to take responsibility in their tomato supply chain and work with the CIW to make concrete changes in the tomato industry by:
1. agreeing to pay a penny more per lb. of tomatoes they purchase
2. enforce a code of conduct to the FL companies they purchase tomatoes from to ensure the human rights of the farm workers are protected. 3. that a three way dialog exist between the CIW the purchaser (Taco Bell for ex.), and the tomato company(supplier)

Since Taco Bell the CIW has reached agreements with McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods, and most recently Subway. Now the the largest buyers of tomatoes in the fast food industry have signed the CIW is now targeting the supermarket and food service provider (Aramark for example) industries to come to the same agreements.

1 comment:

PIEDAD said...