News : ldquo;Truth tour” addresses immigrant workers’ rights

The typical Immokalee worker’s day begins before dawn and lasts until two tons of tomatoes are picked and heaped into buckets. Workers earn about 45 cents per 32-pound bucket and the pay rate has not increased since 1978. By sundown, workers are lucky to have $50 in their pockets. For Florida field workers, fair wages, better living conditions, and overtime pay seem like reasonable requests.

Friday, April 28, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Mexican Solidarity Network will present a multi-media production and panel discussion at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. The presentation will show how the CIW has launched a public-education campaign to shed light on the poverty of Immokalee farm workers who pick tomatoes for the McDonald’s chain.

“The Immokalee are the largest suppliers of tomatoes and cucumbers in the nation,” says Jessica Guerrero, a “buena gente” spokesperson at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

“We are really excited to do this `presentation` and take the time to learn about these issues, educate and inform the community on how we can do our part. Their struggle is our struggle,” Guerrero added.

She says that San Antonio immigrants have endured similar work conditions, maybe not in tomato fields but in factories, restaurants, and domestic positions.

Immokalee Workers seek justice with “McDonald’s Truth Tour”
7pm Fri, Apr 28
Esperanza Peace
and Justice Center
922 San Pedro

MSN representative Celeste Escobar is representing more than 3,000 Florida farm workers with the “McDonald’s Truth Tour” campaign. Escobar and other grassroots leaders are challenging McDonald’s to address human rights violations by speaking out on the impact of immigration policy on their lives.

“We see the necessity at this moment, especially when you see all the immigrant population mobilization, of connecting the dots of the struggles of all immigrants,” said Escobar.

Candelario Vasquez will speak at the event on behalf of the CIW. A native Chicano who grew up in Immokalee, Florida, Vasquez will share the experiences of his family, including the untimely death of his father, who contracted cancer from pesticide exposure.

“Industry corporations like McDonald’s have departments that take care of social issues. However, the demands for human rights and fair wages still exist. We can’t go home just because there is a department that takes care of social issues at McDonald’s. We have to still be engaged `as to` how these corporations are applying these social standards,” says Escobar.

Last year, Taco Bell finally agreed, after a four-year tug of war, to raise the wages of the workers one penny per bushel of tomatoes. This minuscule increase, however, made a difference, say activists — it showed the value of speaking out about injustice, and demonstrated these immigrant workers will not be silenced.

- Ashley Ruszkowski

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