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Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers becomes target of natl. business group


The Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers, known for their hunger strikes and protest tactics against Naples-area growers, has hit the big time for protestors by drawing a complaint from a national business group called Worker Center Watch.

The center just sent the following letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi:

Dear General Bondi:

For nearly 15 years the Immokalee-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers, through its Fair Food Campaign, has made allegations against well-known corporate food service, restaurant and grocery brands – including Florida-based Burger King and Publix Supermarkets – that failure to join its “penny-per-pound” Fair Food Program makes them complicit in abusive labor practices alleged to take place in the agricultural fields of Florida. Though the accused brands have no direct supervision of farmworkers in the state, many have chosen to signonto the CIW’s program, if for no other reason than to remove them as a CIW protest targets.

During the course of its years of protesting across Florida, the CIW’s Fair Food Program as well as its own bank account swelled with millions of dollars from corporate program members and foundations such as Kresge, Kellogg, Ford and others. By its own estimate[1], over $11 million has been paid out from the Fair Food Program fund since 2011, purportedly to the 30,000 tomato pickers it estimates are working in the fields of Florida at any given time. Meanwhile, tax compliance documents indicate the CIW uses its own substantial funds[2] to teach theater production for “leadership development.” Yet for several years once the program began being funded, agricultural workers were not receiving any of the funds earmarked by corporate participants. How funds were used from 2005 to 2011 remains in question. In fact, there is a series of class action lawsuits underway on behalf of those workers to recoup bonus pay that was promised to them.[3]

Worker Center Watch is dedicated to exposing the oftendisingenuous and potentially nefarious actions of labor activist worker centers, such as the CIW. We believe the motivation of the CIW does not liewith the workers it claims to represent. As with other worker centers such as Restaurant Opportunities Center, Fast Food Forward and Retail Action Project, the CIW appears to be more concerned with tarnishing the image of well-known brands and extorting money from them than actually improving the plight of U.S. workers.

Given the great uncertainty as to whether these funds were properly dispersed, as committed through CIW’s own promotion of the Fair Food Program, we urge you to investigate any occurrences of deceptive trade practices. Further, with the CIW’s overt efforts to bargain directly with employers on behalf of workers, we urge a close examination of any labor relations practices that may have been, or continue to be, violated by this group.

The CIW has built quite a record of making slanderous allegations against various restaurant, grocery and food service companies operating in the state of Florida. For the sake of the rule of law, as well as the positive image of Florida’s agriculture industry, transparency and justice must be brought to the actions of CIW.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Ryan Williams

Worker Center Watch

cc:  The Honorable Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services


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Love it!

Candice Wells

This Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers is actually a front for Lawyers looking for a way to make money, like ambulance chasers. They are thriving through the innocence of the uneducated farmworkers. If you look at this to see who they are you will find that many are retired judges and judges. They know the judicial system in and out and where to put pressure to get the most blood of others. They do not care about these exploited workers only in exercising their talents as lawyers. They groom and put words in the mouths of these farmworkers with promises that everyone is going to get something out of it. This is like the lawyers that hire scam artists to go to businesses and ask to use their bathrooms and then file claims that they are violating Americans with Disabilties Act. Meanwhile the farm workers who may be living her under forged documents are afraid of this group of lawyers because the fear is that if they do not go along with this farce or do what they (these lawyers) tell them to do or say they will be deported. Promises are being made by this Immokalee Coalition that if you speak out against the farmers you will be protected and cannot be deported. The fear of deportation is real, what would you do in their circumstances? Farmers are being told right now at this moment "what are you doing to your workers are you stifling them, because we have not gotten enough complaints on your farm!" We need a legal workforce in the United States, and we need it done legally by both sides.


It is disgraceful that a major newspaper like the Miami Herald would post verbatim a completely disingenuous and downright slanderous letter by a Republican-backed front group like Worker Center Watch. What has happened to reporting in this country!
Worker Center Watch is run by big time Republican consultants based out of the Washington D.C. offices of FP1 Strategies. This is a classic case of outside interests groups trying to poison the public image of a legitimate organization like the CIW, which has received wide praise for its human rights work.
Shame on you Marc Caputo. If you have any journalistic integrity at all you will research Worker Center Watch's claims and publish a piece on your findings.

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