If you don’t live in the Southwest Florida area, it is unlikely that you’ve heard of Immokalee, Florida. Nestled in Collier County, Immokalee is a pseudo-rural area that is home to approximately 24,000 individuals. Of that 24,000 about 75% of the residents are of Hispanic or Latino decent. The main source of income for the majority of Immokalee residents comes from the agricultural industry. In fact, Immokalee places high on the list as one of the major tomato growing centers of the United States.

Recently, Maria Perez from Naples Daily News reported that the Immokalee farm workers are urging people to boycott Wendy’s (the fast food restaurant of global notoriety) because the massive company has cut ties with the tomato industry of Immokalee. They plan to outsource their tomato purchases to Mexico (maybe someone should let Tronald Dump know that his bullshit wall would be better use by keeping people in, as opposed to keeping people out).

As I mentioned, this is nothing new to anyone residing in the larger Lee, Hendry, and Collier county area surrounding Immokalee. Not many outsiders are aware of the shockingly unfair worker’s conditions in the Immokalee agricultural industry, unless of course they have seen Food Chains (2014), a documentary that Eva Longoria (actress and advocate for Latino farm workers) helped produce.

The documentary reveals the human cost of the massive agricultural food industry in America, and focuses largely on the farm workers located in Immokalee. Highlighting the fact that farm work remains one of the most difficult, dangerous, and under paid jobs in the United States, the film proposed a very clear solution: support the workers’ cause by urging massive food chains and grocery stores to pay just a penny more per pound of tomatoes purchased to better improve the lives of those that grow and harvest them. Although it goes without saying, it was also suggested that consumers begin to boycott the farms that have made violations against human rights.
The film continues by exposing the major companies that have been resistant to signing an agreement to abide by these conditions, and they are as follows: Publix, Kroger, Safeway, and of course… Wendy’s (the links re-direct to their contact information, just in case you want to let them know what disgusting pieces of shit they are).

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food (founded in 1993) has worked tirelessly on the home front to improve the lives of farm workers. Through their effort, especially alarming conditions were revealed to the public. This included physical and emotional abuse towards workers, labor laws being violated, starvation level wages, and a lack of safety measures put into effect to prevent injury (and fatalities) for farm workers. Most bothersome (and by bothersome, I mean downright enraging) were the reports of female workers being sexually abused by not only peers (due to lack of supervision across the vast agricultural fields), but by the farm owners themselves.

On March 10th, Bernie Sanders released a campaign advertisement that featured film of Immokalee workers. Bernie’s intention is to change the financial downfall that farm workers reside in, as well as the working and living condition of the Immokalee population. The advertisement was released in both English and Spanish, but the farm workers in the Immokalee area are skeptical that they’ll see any politician usher in the change that they promise.

Photo by T’ruah

Shelby
Shelby is a body positive pop artist. She has worked with mental health patients in the Southwest Florida area for 4 years, and happily resides in Lehigh Acres, FL with her husband and 7 cats. Hobbit enthusiast, genuine lioness, and fueled by hot tea.