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21st. Century slavery in the USA

Discussion in 'Opinions, Beliefs, & Points of View' started by Bob26003, Apr 24, 2010.

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  1. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    21st Century U.S. Slavery: Immigrant Farm Workers

    Although slavery was officially banned in the United States more than 130 years ago, some immigrant workers who pick the crops that end up on our dinner tables still are enslaved.

    Earlier this month, federal officials in south Florida arrested Antonia Zuniga Vargas on a 17-count indictment, charging her with conspiring to make money off workers from Mexico and Guatemala, forging documents and committing identity theft. Vargas, along with five other co-defendants, is connected to a business operation in Immokalee, Fla., allegedly created to hold workers in involuntary servitude and peonage.

    Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy told the Fort Myers News-Press Vargas and the others are charged with:

    …slavery, plain and simple. Some of the folks have been there for years. It is the hope to send back money to their families, and they hang on to that hope. It’s just a situation that’s difficult to get out of.

    According to the federal indictment, the co-defendants, for more than two years, held more than a dozen people as slaves on their property. They made them sleep in box trucks and shacks, charged them for food and showers, didn’t pay them for picking produce and beat them if they tried to leave. The documents list 13 instances when the workers were beaten.

    Since 1997, federal civil rights officials have prosecuted five such slavery operations run by Florida growers, involving more than 1,000 workers.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who visited farm workers in the south Florida fields the day after the slavery arrests, says:

    The idea that in the year 2008, in the United States of America, people are being indicted for slavery is almost beyond comprehension. Yet this indictment sheds a light on the kind of conditions tomato workers in Florida are forced to live in. (See video above.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74-Clx-u1vk&eurl=http://www.ciw-online.org/news.html

    Farm workers who pick tomatoes for the fast-food industry are among this country’s most exploited workers. Those who work in the tomato fields throughout Florida earn subpoverty wages and have no health care coverage or freedom to form unions. Growers have paid the farm workers in that state roughly the same wages for the past 30 years.

    In April, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) won a groundbreaking agreement with McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain. The fast-food giant agreed to pay a penny more per pound to workers harvesting tomatoes, which means the workers will get 72 cents to 77 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick, up from 40 cents to 45 cents.

    But Burger King, the world’s second-largest burger chain, has rejected working with the CIW to improve farm workers’ wages and conditions. Instead, it has joined with extreme conservatives and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to fight the agreements. In fact, to discourage the growers from paying a mere penny more per pound, the growers exchange has threatened to fine any grower that participates in the agreements $100,000.

    Says Sanders:

    For a major company like Burger King not to pay that additional penny and raise workers’ wages and improve their conditions is unconscionable.

    Sanders released two letters, which he and three other U.S. senators—Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)—sent to John Chidsey, CEO of Burger King, and Reggie Brown, head of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, urging them to improve farm worker wages and end the exploitation of Florida’s tomato harvesters. Click here to read the two letters.

    At a press conference, Sanders condemned Burger King and Goldman Sachs, one of three multibillion-dollar private equity firms that own a substantial share of Burger King stock, for refusing to pay the tomato pickers a decent wage:

    The American people need to understand why it is that huge multi-national corporations that make billions in profits are unable to pay people who supply the products they use a living wage. They need to know why financial institutions like Goldman-Sachs and others, who have major holdings in companies like Burger King, are not applying the proper moral leverage to bring about the necessary changes.

    What happens in Immokalee affects all workers, Sanders says:

    Now some people might say, “Well, I don’t pick tomatoes why do I have to worry about it?” And the answer is that so long as these types of abysmal working conditions exist in the U.S., they create a culture which leads us to the race to the bottom…which says that any worker can be subject to arbitrary actions on the part of an employer. Just create a very, very strong anti-worker culture, which is part of the destruction of the middle class, the increase in poverty, the lack of respect for working people in this country

    Meanwhile, activists with the anti-poverty action group OxFam joined farm workers to deliver petitions with 28,000 signatures to Chidsey, demanding that the Immokalee workers receive more pay and better working conditions. (You can act now to help the Immokalee workers by clicking here to sign the OxFam petition.)

    Over the weekend, 55 union members, activists and students rallied at a Burger King restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn., calling on the chain to treat the tomato pickers with respect.

    On The National blog, Katrina Vanden Heuvel points out that President Bush and conservatives ignore outrages like slavery in Immokalee:

    “We must ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves,” President Bush declared during his final State of the Union address. He then segued into a call to ban human cloning. He didn’t talk about dignity in terms of ravaged pensions, working longer hours for lower wages, and the loss of healthcare and other benefits. And he certainly didn’t talk about dignity when it comes to migrant workers in Immokalee, Florida where—as Senator Bernie Sanders told me just days before Bush’s SOTU—“the norm is a disaster, and the extreme is slavery.”

    Working people understand what’s at stake and strongly support the Immokalee workers. AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, who joined the Immokalee workers in a rally and march on Burger King headquarters in November, told workers she takes to heart their struggle because of her own experiences.

    Like so many of you, I know what it is like to struggle just for survival. I grew up in the poverty of west Texas. My mother was a domestic worker; my father was a day laborer who did not have the benefit of belonging to a union.

    I had a dream to make people’s lives better, and I was fortunate to get a job with my union and become an organizer. Now my new job is to help
    others organize and bring justice to our communities. That’s what the AFL-CIO is about, and that’s what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is about.



    Human Rights With Your Food: Farm Workers March in Florida for Living Wages
    Farmworkers are calling on supermarket giant Publix to pay them a penny more for every pound of tomatoes they pick, which would almost double their meager wages.

  2. fromthatshow

    fromthatshow Staff Alumni SF Supporter

    How about what's happening in Arizona? It's fucked up!
  3. Tobes

    Tobes Well-Known Member

    I couldn't imagine being a slave. Having to work all day, every day, without any foresseable chance of release? It sounds terrible. And to factor in the way they get paid next to nothing, that makes it even worse. It makes me appreciate my freedom.
  4. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, now all brown people will be targets, legal or illegally.

    Also I have been hearing how this also a voter suppression operation.
  5. friendless

    friendless Well-Known Member

    What will happen if all these anti-immigration laws pass? Americans will never pick vegetables for $.75 a pound. Does that mean we will just have to import ALL of our food? All of this really is just a race to the bottom.
  6. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

  7. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    The constitutionality of that law is being called into question, since the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution stipulates that the Federal government alone is responsible for immigration related issues.
  8. Bob26003

    Bob26003 Well-Known Member

    Just to get this straight. I absolutely agree that we have an illegal immigration problem that needs addressing, but trampling on civil rights and using unconstitutional jackboot tactics that essentially makes everyone who doesn't look snow white a target, is not the way.

    BTW, aren't there already laws on the books? Laws that are more than ample? Laws that are not being enforced?
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