‘Voices From the Field’ to educate about migrant workers’ struggle

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When people consume tomatoes, they often do not think about the history behind them — much less the history of the migrant workers and the pain and suffering they endure on a daily basis in working environments that are often extremely inhumane and unethical.
“Voices From the Field,” an event at Florida Gulf Coast University, will be hosted on Friday, Jan. 10, in the library on the third floor in the archive. It will educate and inform students on what these migrant workers go through and how FGCU students can improve the lives of these field workers and their families. Lauren Mueller, president of the Anthropology Club and a museum studies minor, is the head organizer of the event and wants students to come out to see what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has done to raise awareness of the activities going on in Immokalee, where many of the migrant workers and their families live and work. Mueller said she wants students to see for themselves what the CIW is all about.
“The main message of “Voices From The Field” is recognizing that migrant workers are people too,” Mueller said. Mueller added that the event is being made possible through financial grants from Student Associates for a Greener Environment (SAGE) and Florida Public Archaeology Network (FAAN).
Describing the typical day in the life of a migrant worker, Mueller said the workers usually wake up around 4 a.m. to attend to family needs. The workers are picked up at 5:30 a.m. by buses to go to the fields for the day, where they endure long, 10 to 12 hour days and pick, on average, a hundred 32-pound buckets daily. The pay each worker receives is approximately 50 cents per bucket. “I feel like it is shocking. I never thought it would happen, especially in Immokalee. I guess people will do anything to support their families this day in age. I do believe their wages should be increased, though,” said Devon Robins, a junior and resort and hospitality major at FGCU. Robins added that FGCU can make a difference by doing more public events.
One student from Immokalee states that he might attend “Voices From The Field” simply to be educated on what is going on. “I want to continue to be educated on what is going on in Immokalee. There are particular cases that I have heard about before,” said Jean Henry, a junior community health major. “I know it involves groups of Hispanics, Guatemalans and Mexicans in particular. They are promised certain opportunities to support their families but are not made aware of the working conditions.”
Luis Valas, a senior political science major, said he wants to be familiar with what is going on in Immokalee for himself as well. He also recalls witnessing a protest and suggests that students contact their representatives to get some changes made. Valas said, “I know that it is something that is happening here, and the media is not raising any awareness. Citizens of Florida are not making it relevant enough for the media to cover. Two years ago I witnessed a protest in Naples, right near Immokalee. I believe that people should contact their representative before they protest. But one thing they must understand is that sadly these immigrants do not have any rights in the United States. FGCU students need to contact the right authorities and put it to an end.”