There are slaves in Immokalee. And two Southwest Florida organizations want people to know about it.
According to Christopher Mosteiro, Florida Gulf Coast University student and member of the Gulf Coast Wesley Foundation, “Immokalee is a city that is about 30 minutes from FGCU but if you drive through it, it looks like you have just driven into a Third World country.”
On Nov. 21, the Gulf Coast Wesley Foundation will be holding a “Concert for Justice” at the Veterans Pavilion from 8-10 p.m.
“The goal for the concert is to raise awareness about the injustice taking place in Immokalee,” Jacob Derums, president of the Wesley Foundation on campus, said. “And to create partnership between the CIW and the university in order to gain support in the efforts to end the injustice.”
The CIW to which Derums refers is the Coalition for Immokalee Workers. The CIW is a Florida organization that was established in 1993 by a group of workers who sought to better their lives through the creation of more humane treatment of farm laborers and fairer wages. The website ciw-online.org describes the group as “internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of corporate social responsibility, community organizing, and sustainable food.”
Today, the work of the CIW is focused on three areas: The Campaign for Fair Food, The Fair Food Program and the Anti-Slavery Campaign.
The Campaign for Fair Food involves ending the exploitation of farm laborers through entering Fair Food Agreements with food retailers. These agreements bind retailers to work only with tomato suppliers that treat laborers in compliance with Fair Food Program Standards. Since 2001, the campaign has successfully created agreements with 11 multibillion-dollar food retailers, including McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell and Whole Foods. The Fair Food Program itself works to educate workers on their rights, and serves as a watchdog for labor-rights violations.
The Anti-Slavery Campaign works to uncover farm slavery operations across the Southeastern United States. In its brief history, the campaign has led to the freeing of 1,200 farm laborers.
And its work is not done. A 2012 article in blisstree.com titled “Your Healthy Tomatoes May Have Been Picked by Slaves,” claimed that “most workers have to pick upwards of 100 buckets of tomatoes per day in order to make a mere $50.”
Such workers are exposed to potentially harmful pesticides, made to work long hours, and are sometimes held against their will in a situation that former Chief Assistant US. Attorney Douglas Molloy has previously called “slavery plain and simple.”
The CIW is doing its best to put an end to the modern-day enslavement of laborers, and the Gulf Coast Wesley Foundation seeks to help through raising awareness of the CIW and its mission. The Wesley Foundation’s mission is to “Love God, Serve People, Change the World.” Nov. 21, the Foundation will seek to do this through its “Concert for Justice”.
Students and members of the community are invited to attend the free concert and hear what the Wesley Foundation has to say about the injustices faced by farm laborers. Performances will be by soul and hip-hop band Freedom Hall, and folk-rock band Frankie Colt and the 45s, both from Naples.
Some students are glad that organizations such as the CIW and the Wesley Foundation exist.
“I’m glad that this sort of informing of the public is going on,” FGCU sophomore Molly Honecker said. “You hear these statistics and you don’t realize that it’s happening 10 miles from where you live. Really, the best way to shut these things down is to bring them to light.”
Mosteiro is excited to show support for the CIW.
“The concert supports the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — a human rights organization working to end human traffi cking in Immokalee. Basically, modern day slavery with agriculture.”
When two organizations aimed toward serving others unite, they can make beautiful music.
To learn more about the Gulf Coast Wesley Foundation, visit: gulfcoastwesley.org To learn more about the CIW, visit: ciwonline. org