Farmworkers, Eric Schlosser to Testify at Senate Hearing on Slavery and Abuses in Florida’s Tomato Fields
Washington D.C. – Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the southwest Florida based farmworkers’ rights group, traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in a U.S. Senate hearing on ending abuses and improving working conditions for tomato workers. Chairman Edward Kennedy and Senator Bernie Sanders will convene the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing on April 15th at 10am at Dirksen SOB 430. CIW Co-Founder Lucas Benitez, recipient of the 2003 RFK Human Rights Award, and acclaimed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation will testify at the hearing.
“In an era of globalization,” Sanders said, “the American people are becoming more and more concerned not only about the quality of goods they consume, but about the conditions facing those who produce those goods. In my view, the American consumer does not want the tomatoes they eat to be picked by workers who are grossly mistreated, underpaid, and in some case even kept in chains. This must not happen in the United States of America in 2008.”
"Why is there still slavery and brutal exploitation in the food we eat in the 21st century? Why can't this country's trillion dollar food industry do better by workers who sacrifice body and soul to put food on our table? These are the questions that we believe US senators will be asking of tomato industry leaders at Tuesday's hearing," said Lucas Benitez.
"What began as a cry for justice from Immokalee grew quickly into a national grassroots movement and now with this hearing the power of the federal government is being brought to bear in our Campaign for Fair Food. Change is inevitable and this hearing brings us all -- growers and farmworkers, consumers and retail food corporations ever closer to the day when farmworkers receive the fair wages and respect we deserve for our vital contribution to this society.
The hearing comes in the midst of a national petition drive led by the farmworkers and their supporters in the Alliance for Fair Food urging Burger King, the Florida Tomatoes Growers Exchange and food industry leaders to cooperate with the CIW to improve the wages and conditions for the workers who pick their tomatoes, and join an industry-wide effort to eliminate modern-day slavery and human rights abuses from Florida’s fields.
“Florida Tomatoes Growers continue to drag their feet and to subvert human rights based agreements of food industry leaders like Yum Foods and McDonald’s on pay increases and enforceable codes of conducts for workers in the fields that supply their produce,” said Monika Kalra Varma, director of the RFK Center for Human Rights. “This hearing is a chance to expose both the actions and in-action in the food industry, 200 years after Congress abolished the slave trade, which combine to stall efforts to clean our food supply from the taint of profound human rights abuses.”
What: U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions:
When: 10 AM EST April 15th, 2008
Where: Dirksen SOB 430
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