Immokalee’s Farmworkers fight for the right to be treated fairly

Despite the heavy rains on Monday, May 1, crowds of people showed up to march for the injustice of the way migrant workers are treated. As the rains came down and delayed the event, dozens more people showed up, drenched, to show support. By the time the two mile march began, there were over two hundred protestors holding signs proclaiming they wanted human rights, dignity and respect. Other signs were pleading to stop the hatred, and declaring strength and unity. Many of the protestors wore butterfly wings with the word “lucha” written on them. Since butterflies are a symbol of life, the message is simple: “Fight for Life humane respect). As the people paraded the streets of Immokalee, their loud music and chanting became a vortex to spectators who joined the march. What’s more amazing is that elderly people with canes, did not think twice about walking with the crowd.

Farmworkers work hard and are put under severe conditions, such as working in the scorching sun, bent over for hours, and being exposed to potentially harmful chemicals. However, they are not paid for their long hours, and although they work over forty hours each week, they are not paid overtime. Farmworkers are paid piece work, which makes them work through breaks at an incredible rate, but still they make less than minimum wage. The average farmworker only makes between $10,000 — $15,000 a year. The owners of the farms take advantage of farmworkers’ “undocumented status” or find loopholes in the Federal laws so they get away with under paying them. Even more disheartening, is that in order to survive, children must join their parents in the fields, which only brings the average family income under $20,000. Unfortunately, the Federal laws governing child labor, do not apply to children working on farms. Furthermore, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs’ (AFOP): “Adolescents also undergo growth spurts, which may decrease flexibility and increase their susceptibility to a variety of musculoskeletal injuries, such as bursitis, tendonitis, sprains, and carpal tunnel syndrome.” Additionally, the National Farmworker’s Ministry states: “… Pesticides are grouped into different categories based on their toxicity, and laws based on toxicity ratings are made to protect the bodies of adults, not the bodies of children who are developing.” If someone were subjected to these conditions in any other occupation, they would receive hazard pay.

Fortunately, people all over the country are sympathizing with Immokalee’s farmworkers and support their ban on Wendy’s restaurants. The reason for the ban on Wendy’s is because unlike MacDonald’s, Burger King, and other fast food restaurants, Wendy’s refuses to join the Fair Food Program which promotes Human Rights. Wendy’s has also stopped buying tomatoes from Florida, and buys their tomatoes from Mexico, where farmworkers work under hasher conditions such as workers are forced to work without pay, have to sleep on the scorpion infested ground where they survive on scraps, and are severely beaten if they try to quit. Wendy’s does not care about these extreme conditions that the farmworkers are subjected to; all that they care about is making a huge profit. Additionally, last week, students from colleges around the country, went on a 48 hour hunger strike to show their support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

On the other hand, FF Robotics and Abundant Robotics have developed a solution to this problem by creating robotic pickers that can work 27/7 in any weather conditions. However, this is an easy way not to address the real problem. Is it too much to ask to be treated equal to other employees? What will happen to the economy when over three million migrant workers lose their jobs? Other immigrants have joined and stopped working as May first has been declared as “International Workers Day” or as some call it, “Work Without an Immigrant Day”. Although these other immigrant workers are subjected to low wages, none are subjected to the inhumane treatment that the farmworkers are subjected to. Instead of building a wall, President Trump should work with Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to find solutions for farmworkers to get decent wages and living conditions. When this is resolved, people won’t feel obligated to leave their country in order to survive.

Lewis Perkins is special to the Immokalee Bulletin and can be reached at ibnews@newszap.com

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