Unbeknownst to many Americans, agriculture in the United States is rife with human rights abuses.
In the multi-billion dollar farming industry, corporations negotiate with growers to purchase mass quantities of product for the lowest possible prices. Farmworkers have borne the brunt of this market pressure, in part because their rights to organize and collectively bargain are not protected by the U.S. National Labor Relations Act. Pickers work long, backbreaking hours for less than the minimum wage. They suffer physical and sexual abuse. They have to get to the fields before dawn and then wait without pay for hours while the dew evaporates. The result result is a kind of modern-day slavery.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers was founded in the 1990s to end these injustices. Its Fair Food Program has succeeded in enlisting the help of major companies like Subway, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods to raise wages and improve conditions for tomato pickers across the United States.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers continues to work for industry-wide change, offering a model of Americans standing up for their rights and creating change on their own. As Robert Kennedy said to Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworkers in 1968, “You are winning a special kind of citizenship: no one is doing it for you--you are winning it yourselves--and therefore no one can ever take it away.”