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GOING STRONG: Coalition of Immokalee Workers marks 30 years of advocacy

Immokalee group works to bring equality, often for those without a voice
CIW 30
Posted at 9:31 PM, Dec 15, 2023

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Thirty years ago, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers began their fight for justice to end discrimination, wage theft, violence and harassment for farm workers in Immokalee. Since then, the United Nations and the Obama Administration recognized the group’s human rights campaign efforts.

All week, they’ve raised money for CIW’s anniversary. Their goal is to reach 300 donors before Saturday.

Nely Rodriguez has worked at CIW the past 15 years. She said they fought for better treatment, “Como personas seres humanos y no nada mas como herramientas. No nada más van hacer invisibles.” (“As people, we are human beings and not just tools. No longer will they be invisible.”)

In 2011, CIW created the Fair Food Program, so companies like Walmart and Subway only work with farms that treat workers fairly. Find the full list of companies and farms in the Fair Food Program here.

Rodriguez said, “Ahora con este modelo, hay miles de trabajadores ser protegidos.” (Now with this model, thousands of workers are protected.”)

CIW uses their Fair Food Program as model to help workers in other industries including fishing, dairy, textiles, flowers, construction and more in the United State and across globe. Currently, they’re advising dairy workers in Vermont.

Gerardo Reyes Chavez also works at CIW and spent much of his life as a farm worker in Immokalee. He said the program changed their reality.

“You don’t have to give up your dignity as a condition to keep your job,” Chavez said.

21-year-old Juan Santos and his family also know that feeling. Santos said as a kid he worked alongside his parents on farms. “As a son of migrant farm workers in Immokalee, we live mostly in poverty, so working here felt like a necessity to keep my family safe and alive,” Santos said.

Chavez said he hopes CIW’s achievements will change how people see Immokalee.

“They start to look at the community, Immokalee, in a different light because yes we are poor, we didn’t go to school... but that doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of dreaming,” he said.

CIW said they’d like to see other big corporations like Kroger, Wendy’s and Publix join the Fair Food Program as well.

GET INVOLVED: If you’re interested in making a donation to CIW, click the link here.