by Jeff Gore
In November, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers – a group of activists and farm workers struggling for higher wages and better working conditions for South Florida’s migrant tomato pickers – signed a historic agreement with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, marking the pinnacle of a decade and a half campaign filled with actions ranging from street protests to hunger strikes. The unprecedented victory formed the introduction of my feature-length profile of the group back in December, and now, it’s finally made its way to the news section of the New York Times on Wednesday. (The paper ran an op-ed on the matter last month.)
There’s not much new information in the New York Times piece, though there is some affirmation of my thought that the group is changing the agricultural industry:
“This can and will be extended to other areas of the agricultural industry,” said Chris Tilly, director of the U.C.L.A. Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, who said this type of agreement was uncommon. “There are potentially interesting implications for supply chains that reach outside this country.”
The story was promptly linked to by the CIW’s very active website, which again reminds me that my story, which I believe is the only comprehensive profile of the group published thus far, was ignored by the CIW. A search for “Orlando Weekly” on the group’s website still yields a link to an article about the group we pushed in June of 2001, “Picking a Fight.”
A source with ties to the group told me that the CIW did not appreciate my quoting of critic Greg Schell; according to the source, the group believes Schell’s beef with them is personal and that the story unduly portrays his criticisms as legitimate.
Schell, though a vociferous opponent of the group, still admits that the CIW’s website “kicks ass.”