Thursday, April 22, 2010

Farmworkers March 22 Miles for Better Wages & An End to Slavery.

Lakeland, FL – Over 1,500 farmworkers and their allies gathered throughout the weekend of April 16-18 to fight for an end to slave-labor practices and for higher wages in South Florida.

Participants of the march gathered first in Tampa and marched over a period of 2 days to Lakeland, ending the march in front of the Corporate Headquarters for Publix Supermarkets. People from Texas, California, Minnes

ota, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida and other parts of the country marched in solidarity with the farmworkers. Members of Students for a Democratic Society and the Student/Farmworker Alliance traveled from Gainesville, FL to participate in this historic “Farmworker Freedom March.” The participants marched over 22 miles in their quest for justice.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been struggling for several months to make Publix sit down with the farmworkers and sign onto a contract. Such a contract would would make Publix pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked by the farmworkers, as well as ensuring that human rights abuses and cases of modern day slavery in the fields came to an end. The Farmworker Freedom March came less than a month after the CIW won their battle against Aramark, a major food service provider, and forced Aramark to sign onto a penny more per pound of tomatoes and a

n end to human rights abuses.

The CIW brought a moving truck that had been converted into a museum to the march. The truck was part of the “Modern Day Slavery Museum” the workers had been bringing throughout Florida as they built for the Farmworker Freedom March. Inside the truck were stories, pictures, and exhibits about the farmworkers who had been chained up at night in such trucks and forced to work, often at gunpoint, as slaves. A group of workers cut through the chains and breeched the roof of the truck before escaping and exposing the wretched conditions their bosses had subjected them to, leading to the prosecution of 7 separate cases of modern day slavery.

Morale was high as the workers concluded the third day of the march by speaking out at rally about why their struggle against Publix was just.

“We from Immokalee may be poor, but we're not alone,” coalition member Lucas Benitez said to the crowd that had gathered from all over the country. The CIW has never lost a campaign.

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