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Thursday, February 17, 2011

South Florida farmworkers return to Orlando to campaign, protest against Publix

Posted By on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 2:04 PM

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If you're not doing anything around 7 o'clock tonight and want to know what's going on in the world of agricultural activism, head over to Stardust Video & Coffee, where the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies will be hosting a screening of the seminal 1960 documentary "Harvest of Shame." The Edward Murrow film was the first to explore the substandard pay and blistering work of migrant workers in America, including those working from the small southwest Florida town of Immokalee. It's there that the CIW began to organize 17 years ago to improve the working conditions of the average migrant tomato picker, a goal that is just finally being realized today, as we explain in more detail in our December cover story on the group.

Tonight's screening will be followed by a brief explanation and Q&A session about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' campaign to get tomato-buying companies to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes bought from growers which employ migrant workers from Immokalee. The group has had remarkable success in enacting changes to both how workers are paid and treated, most notably the Nov. 16 agreement with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which one sympathetic follower regarded as the most important moment in the group's 17-year history.

Despite the fact that many large fast-food chains and food service providers have acceded to the CIW's demands, no supermarket chain (with the exception of Whole Foods) has yet signed a "Fair Food" agreement with CIW.

The CIW and its allies, in turn, have chosen Publix as their first target, and will be hosting a protest on the corner of E.Colonial Dr. and Shine Ave. at 3 p.m. on Saturday outside of the Publix store directly opposite Orlando Weekly headquarters. The group is campaigning across the state in a bid to bolster the ranks of a "major demonstration" in Tampa on March 4th and 5th.

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