The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) was recognized last week on the front page of The New York Times for its role in turning the Immokalee tomato fields “from being the worst to the best” workplace environment in U.S. agriculture.
The article, “In Florida Tomato Fields, a Penny Buys Progress,” charts the gains the CIW has made in ensuring human freedom and dignity among farmworkers.
Gerardo Reyes Chavez of the CIW outlined the group’s progress last fall when it received the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom from Want medal.
“Somewhere we have heard that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice … today, for first the first time in the history of the south, this dream is coming true for farmworkers in Florida’s agriculture,” Reyes said. “For the first time, we have a place at the table. In our struggle for better wages and working conditions, we are confident that this recognition will help us to arrive to the day in which our dreams will be made fully real.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was an early partner of the CIW and continues to stand with the group. Hundreds of Presbyterians and congregations have met the farmworkers on their annual truth tours and events and supported them during their 20-year struggle for rights and fair compensation in the fields.
Nely Rodriguez, a member of the CIW who was also present at the Roosevelt Institute awards, had a special message for Presbyterians:
“As we celebrate the success of the Fair Food Program in workers’ lives, we think about the countless Presbyterians and other conscientious consumers who helped make these tremendous gains possible, supporting us in surpassing the many obstacles that lay in our path. We must now strengthen and expand these hard-fought changes by convincing corporations like Wendy’s and Publix Supermarkets to join the Program — and we know that the PC(USA) will be there every step of the way with us.”
Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, said “The CIW’s vision, commitment and partnership have created lasting change, bringing together farmworkers, growers, corporations and consumers in common purpose to ensure human freedom and dignity as God intends. We will accompany the farmworkers and workers throughout the food chain until the day when all are afforded the rights and fairness they deserve.”