The Coalition of Immokalee Workers know how to get things done. The organization, which advocates for seasonal tomato pickers who work in Florida, has transformed an industry that was once called by a U.S. attorney "ground-zero for modern day slavery." The organization has managed to launch successful fair-food and anti-slavery campaigns that has convinced some corporations to pay just a little bit more per pound for their produce to ensure that the people harvesting it are being treated better, and it has uncovered and helped prosecute multiple cases of agricultural slavery operations, in which workers are kept against their will by employers.
The coalition points out that the current retail-food system is based on providing consumers with low prices and retailers with as much profit margin as they can squeeze out of products, with little or no regard for the people who are doing the work to get food from the ground to the stores. The coalition has created a Fair Food Program, a partnership between large restaurants and retailers, farmers and farmworkers that addresses some of the biggest issues – retailers agree to pay a penny per pound more for their tomatoes, and in exchange farmers agree to raise wages and for workers and respect their basic human rights.
So far, the organization has gotten McDonald's, Walmart and Yum Brands (which includes Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver's and A&W) to sign on, but it's still dealing with holdouts who refuse to pay more for their products or sign a pledge asking employers to treat farmworkers fairly. Companies that are still refusing to get on board include Kroger, Safeway, Wendy's and Publix.
On Nov. 21 at 8 p.m., a documentary about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, called Food Chains, screens at the AMC Altamonte 18. The movie, which stars Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser, takes a closer look at the abuses farmworkers in the United States still face and explores what responsibility grocery stores and retailers have to the laborers who pick the produce that stocks their aisles. Farmworkers will also hold a protest outside the Public at Lake Eola, 400 E. Central Blvd., on Nov. 23 at 4:30 p.m. If you can't make the screening or the protest, but you're still interested in seeing the movie, Food Chains will be released on VOD on Nov. 27.
Not familiar with the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers? Read our 2010 story on the organization here.
Watch the trailer for the movie below.