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Members of Congress, AFL-CIO, RFK Center Back Petition Drive for Florida Farm Workers (Conyers, Kuci

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:55 PM
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Members of Congress, AFL-CIO, RFK Center Back Petition Drive for Florida Farm Workers (Conyers, Kuci -

By admin - Posted on March 14th, 2008

WASHINGTON, March 13 U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) as well as AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, RFK Center Director Monika Kalra Varma today joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers at a press conference to support a nationwide petition drive on behalf of Florida farm workers.

Tomato pickers in Florida are working twelve hours days in terrible conditions for substandard wages and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange refuse to admit there is any problem, said Durbin. Senator Sanders and I disagree. And in our meeting with the Growers Exchange Tuesday night, we made it very clear that we going to stand up for the tomato pickers. The Growers Exchange refused to even consider any change in compensation or living conditions.

Sanders said: As someone who represents Vermont, the first state in the United States to outlaw slavery, it is almost incomprehensible to me that we are standing here today -- at the beginning of the 21st century -- holding a press conference to bring attention to the fact that workers in the tomato fields of Florida are working in desperate conditions, conditions that in some cases are so extreme that even the Bush Administration has brought slavery charges. This is a disgrace and an outrage that cannot be allowed to continue.

When we talk about the race to the bottom in America, it is clear the tomato pickers in Immokalee are the bottom. They are workers who are ruthlessly exploited and have no rights. This is a situation that should not continue in America and should be changed.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has launched the petition drive to insist that the food industry improve wages and working conditions for tomato pickers. Recent reports suggest that their pay has not increased in the past two decades and that living conditions of local workers are among the worst in the agriculture industry. Senator Sanders visited Florida in January to investigate conditions on tomato farms. While he was there, a federal grand jury indicted six people for enslaving farm workers. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee tentatively scheduled a hearing in mid-April on working conditions on the farms.

Senators Durbin and Sanders also sent letters today, along with Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), to seven of the largest grocery and food service companies urging them to participate in a proposed initiative to increase the per bushel piece rate that tomato workers in Immokalee, Florida are paid. Todays letter was sent to Winn Dixie, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, SUPERVALU, SYSCO, US Food Service, and Wal-Mart.

FULL story at link.

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1monster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 10:17 PM
Response to Original message
1. Labor camps are infamous for mistreating and virtually enslaving farm workers.
These guys got caught and are now serving thirty years.

The farm workers they "employed" could truly sing that old Tennessee Erny Ford song... "St. Peter, don't you call me 'Cause I can't go. I oooooooowwwwwe myyyyyy soul To the company store."

I wonder though, what happened to the farm workers? Were they offered aid when the labor camp was broken up, or did they did they get snapped up by another slave labor camp?


Jacksonville, FL - Today the Honorable Timothy J. Corrigan, U.S. District Judge, sentenced Ronald Robert Evans, Sr., age 60, to 30 years imprisonment on charges of running a criminal enterprise that distributed crack cocaine; conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine; trafficking in untaxed contraband cigarettes; violating the Clean Water Act, violating the Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Protection Act (two counts), and structuring cash transactions to avoid financial reporting requirements (50 counts); and witness tampering. Judge Corrigan continued the sentencing of Evans wife, Jequita Dumbar Evans, age 45, until February 7, 2007 at 9:30 a.m. She was found guilty on charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and structuring cash transactions to avoid financial reporting requirements (48 counts).

The pair was convicted after a ten-day jury trial on August 26, 2006. Evidence presented at trial showed that Evans, Sr. owned and, with his co-defendants, operated two labor camps for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers one in East Palatka, Florida, and one in Newton Grove, North Carolina.

The evidence at trial showed that the defendants followed a business model designed to extract the greatest economic benefit at the cheapest possible cost from some homeless people. For many years, the defendants recruited African Americans, mostly men, from homeless shelters and the surrounding streets across the Southeast (Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Birmingham, Winston-Salem and other cities). The defendants charged the laborers $50 per week for room and board, and put them to work in the fields for wages at or near minimum wage. At the end of every weekday, after dinner, the defendants gave the workers the opportunity to purchase on credit and at inflated prices, crack cocaine and untaxed generic-quality beer and cigarettes at a "company store" operating at the camp. Records were kept of the laborers "purchases," and the defendants deducted the purchases from the laborers weekly pay envelopes. "Advances" of crack cocaine were also available on payday in the workers' pay envelopes. A very large majority of the laborers became perpetually indebted to the Evanses. The evidence at trial showed that after making the deductions for the crack, beer, and cigarettes, the Evanses were paying the workers on average about 30 cents on the dollar.
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1monster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 10:20 PM
Response to Original message
2. Double kicked and recommended.
BTW, did Burger King ever change their negative stance about paying the tomato pickers a penny more per pound? My family and I haven't patronized them since we heard they would not pay the extremely modest extra penny per pound.

Heck, I think they should get at least an extra ten cents per pound. Without the tomato pickers, the tomatos would stay on the vine.
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