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Leading Food Advocates To Visit Farmworker Community Dubbed “Ground Zero for Modern Slavery"

Immokalee, FL – On Wednesday, March 4th, a dozen prominent authors, sustainable food advocates, and small farmers participated in a day-long delegation to Immokalee, Florida witnessing firsthand the miserable living and working conditions of migrant farmworkers. Delegates spent the day with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nationally recognized farmworker organization at the forefront of fighting to improve farmworkers’ sub-poverty wages; combating forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry; and demanding that corporate food retailers use their market power to ensure more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.

Who was there?  Anim Steel, Director of National Programs, The Food Project

Frances Moore Lappé, Author, Diet for a Small Planet; Raj Patel, Author, Stuffed and Starved; Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA; Bill Ayres, Executive Director, World Hunger Year; Ben Burkett, President, National Family Farm Coalition; Mike Moon, Family Farm Defenders;
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Development Policy;
LaDonna Redmond, President & CEO, Institute for Community Resource Development;
Tom Philpott, Food Editor and Columnist, Grist.org; Jim Goodman, Organic Farmer;

Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for the corporate food industry are among the country’s least paid, least protected workers. They earn about 45 cents for every 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes they pick – a rate that has not changed significantly in 30 years – working from dusk to dawn without the right to overtime pay. They receive no benefits and are excluded from the right to organize. In the most extreme cases, captive workers are held against their will by their employers through threats or violence – including beatings, shootings, and pistol-whippings.

There have been seven federal prosecutions by the Department of Justice for forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry in the past ten years, involving well over one thousand farmworkers.

This is the first-ever delegation of sustainable food advocates to Immokalee. The delegation is hosted by Just Harvest USA, a national organization that aims to build a more just and sustainable food system with a focus on establishing fair wages, humane working conditions, and fundamental rights for farmworkers. They achieve this through broad public education about the conditions in which our food is produced and mobilizing support for farmworker-led and other grassroots campaigns.

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