David Haney is a member of the St Paul Catholic Church since 1995 and a member of the Pinellas Support Committee since 2003. Maria McCourt is a NFWM Board Member and Coordinator of the Pinellas Support Committee in Florida.
A Santa Story by David Haney
Maria and I, with the help of many wonderful supporters, contributors, and volunteers, visited some twenty migrant farm worker camps in Plant City and Dover each year providing these workers with food, clothing and Christmas gifts during the long winter months when they have little work and meager pay checks. This year we provided Christmas gifts to nearly 770 children.
One of the many generous contributors during the past two years has been Country Park Trailer Park, a 55+ community located in Clearwater, Florida. Most of these volunteers live up north but fly south to Clearwater during the winter months (Snow Geese). Many of the Country Park residents collected money and graciously provided Christmas Gifts to about 14 migrant families, living at a migrant camp outside of Plant City. A dozen of these Country Park residents and I drove in a convoy to a pre-designated migrant camp, our vehicles loaded with Christmas gifts, food, clothing items, and lots of Christmas cheer. As we arrived, we all got out of our vehicles and donned our red & white Santa hats. We knocked on the door of each of the six trailers, one by one. These individual “Santa’s” provided each family with Christmas gifts for each child, an impressive amount of food, a Christmas card, and some clothing. Then the Country Park volunteers sang “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” before heading out to the next trailer, until all six trailers were visited.
While we were visiting each family in our Santa hats, singing Christmas songs, and delivering the bundles of toys, food and clothing, a small boy came running over to our group from across the street with a letter in his hand. No one knew who he was, running over by himself from a distant trailer. He wasn’t a resident of the trailer park we were visiting but it was difficult to ignore his enthusiasm. The boy, no older that seven years old, handed one of our volunteers a letter and then quickly disappeared back to his parent’s trailer, across the street. The top of the letter had a drawing of Santa Claus, where the little boy colored in Santa’s rose colored cheeks and large red hat. Underneath the Santa drawing were lines where the elementary grade teacher obviously instructed her little students to write a letter to Santa, using their best writing skills.
“Dear Santa Claus, How are you…would like 1….2….3. I like to hav a meshen tomes and two cars and I like three backogans”, signed Rigoberto.
NFWM congratulates the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) for the landmark agreements they won this month for farm workers in the Florida tomato fields. CIW announced the first formal agreement with a tomato grower, Pacific Tomato Growers, on Oct. 14; and announced a similar agreement a week later with Florida’s largest tomato grower, Six L’s.
NFWM staff, board and supporters around the country, and especially NFWM-Florida and NFWM-YAYA, have been actively working with the CIW on its Fair Food Campaign since the campaign began.
From the CIW/Pacific press release:
“Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the country’s oldest and largest tomato producers, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Florida-based farm worker organization spearheading the Campaign for Fair Food, have signed an innovative agreement that sets new standards for social responsibility and accountability in Florida’s tomato industry.
The agreement represents a significant step forward in the CIW’s decade-long campaign for labor reforms in Florida’s tomato industry. Not only is it the first formal agreement between the CIW and a major tomato grower, but the new accord establishes several practical systems designed to implement cooperatively the key principles of the Code of Conduct at the heart of the Campaign for Fair Food. Those principles include a joint — and, when need be, external — complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process aimed at insuring that farm workers themselves are active participants in the social responsibility efforts.”
For the entire press release, click HERE.
For more on the victories, click HERE.
Photo: Lucas Benitez, left, of the CIW shakes hands with Jon Esformes of Pacific Tomato Growers following yesterday’s press conference at Pacific’s Immokalee farm. Rev. Russell Meyer, Executive Director of Florida Council of Churches, looks on. Photo by Andrew West, Ft. Myers News-Press.
NFWM’s Bert Perry Delivers State Department’s "Trafficking in Persons" Report to Publix Headquarters
Bert Perry (right) of National Farm Worker Ministry hands Publix representative a copy of the State Department TIP report.
On Tuesday, June 29th, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, allies from Interfaith Action and the National Farm Worker Ministry, and a reporter and photographer from the Florida Catholic traveled to Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland, FL to deliver a copy of the U. S. State Department’s recently released “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report. The delegation had hoped to get a meeting with Publix representatives to discuss Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the urgent need for corporations to take responsibility for cleaning up human rights abuses in their supply chains.
Instead, they were met outside the offices at the security gate, by a Publix employee who said that he had no authority to speak on behalf of Publix. He accepted a copy of the TIP report and, after a brief exchange with NFWM’s Bert Perry, returned to Publix’s headquarters with the report.
As the CIW says, “It’s time for Publix to stop burying its head in the sand and to heed the growing call for farm labor justice. It’s time for Publix to meet with the CIW and join the growing partnership for real supply chain accountability.”
In related news, at the State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report ceremony on June 14th, CIW’s Laura Germino was recognized as an “anti-Trafficking Hero.” In his introduction of Laura, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca said, “There have been many cases exposing servitude for both sex and labor in Florida. And the Coalition of the Immokalee Workers and Laura Germino have always been there. They’ve been important partners and, more importantly, an independent and pressing voice as they uncover slavery rings, tap the power of the workers, and hold companies and governments accountable.”
Click HERE to link to the Nation magazine article, Human Trafficking: Not Someone Else’s Problem, about Laura Germino’s award and the TIP report.
For more news from the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, click HERE.
As we gear up for this April’s Farmworker Freedom March — and the Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum continues its historic journey across the state — allies across the country are already into the national Supermarket Week of Action in the Campaign for Fair Food.
This spring season, take action for Fair Food where you shop by urging Stop & Shop, Giant, Publix, Ralph’s, Kroger and other Kroger-owned grocery chains to address the sub-poverty wages and human rights abuses faced by farmworkers who harvest their tomatoes.
You too can get involved by dropping a Campaign for Fair Food letter off to the store manager of your local major supermarket chain! It’s easy to do: Simply download the manager letter here. Then deliver the letter to the manager of your local grocery store and ask the manager to share your concerns with the company’s corporate headquarters.
And if you are interested in joining a picket outside of a supermarket that is already being planned, or organizing one on your own, please contact CIW for more info. Pickets are taking place in the New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore, and San Francisco Bay areas.
And meanwhile, don’t forget the huge Farmworker Freedom March coming up this April 16-18th from Tampa to Lakeland, FL. Check out the march website for everything you need to join us for the three-day march, including key logistics and registration information easy to find on the march site.
Thanks, and see you in Tampa! — Coalition of Immokalee Workers. For more information visit CIW’s website.
On January 30th and 31st, the NFWM Board and Staff held it’s winter meeting at the United Methodist Church Life Enrichment Center near Leesburg, Fl. One of the highlights of the weekend was to have thirteen YAYAs (NFWM’s Youth & Young Adult Network) join us on Saturday.
Here’s the news from Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida …
NFWM had some fantastic news today: Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms, two of Florida’s largest organic growers, have agreed to pass the penny-per-pound wage increase onto farmworkers!!
Whole Foods Market confirmed today that Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms have reached agreements with Whole Foods to support the CIW’s penny-per-pound program and meet strict labor standards. This step forward by Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms effectively breaks the stalemate established nearly two seasons ago when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) threatened to fine any of its members that sold tomatoes under the terms of the CIW agreements.
Due to flooding during the Memorial Day week, farm workers in our east coast area of Florida have been left without work. This is creating a hardship situation for both workers and their families. These families will not be covered under FEMA aid, which will only help families and businesses directly affected by flooding waters in Voluisa County.
Workers live or work in: Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, and Volusia counties
Crops affected: cucumbers, melons, potatoes
Human impact: workers earnings are as low as $100/week or no income
Needs: food and money for bills – electric or rent
These families need help.
Please let us know of any groups or organizations that may be able to help in providing any of these needs. The Farmworker Association Office in Pierson has offered its facilities to be a distribution point for meeting these needs. They are located at 111 Fountain Drive in Pierson, FL. Their local director is Marcos Crisanto tel. (386) 749-9826. Locally trained and Spanish speaking C.E.R.T. teams are available to assist in distribution of information or goods
To assist farm worker families, you can also send monetary gifts, fully tax-deductible, to:
National Farm Worker Ministry
PO Box 1589
Deland, FL 32721
Please, write “Florida Disaster Relief” in the memo line
For further information, contact Bert Perry, NFWM Florida at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-748-2589
Your response is greatly appreciated.
From the Community Disaster Response Group is an entity formed to help their rural community to be better prepared and able to respond to area disasters. Its members include the following local organizations and individuals: Alianza de Mujeres Activas, Farmworker Association of Florida, Hispanos Unidos de America, National Farmworker Ministry, C.E.R.T. trained and other volunteers.
Farm workers on the east coast of central Florida have been hard hit because of the rains over the Memorial Day weekend and the loss of work resulting from the flooding. These families need immediate help with food and money to pay bills. CLICK HERE to see how you can help.
Read Thousands Jobless After Crop Loss from the Palatka Daily News.
Pass around for each participant to read one paragraph each before the meal.
Many generations after that first supper, there was another feast, and the guests ate and drank throughout the day and on into the night. A huge table was draped with a dazzling white cloth, woven of cotton picked by farmworkers in Alabama and Georgia.
Baskets were heaped high with fruit: citrus plucked in Florida groves by Hispanic, Black and Haitian migrants; melons carried from South Carolina fields by malnourished migrant children; apples and cherries picked in Pennsylvania and West Virginia by underpaid families traveling to follow the harvest.
Platters were piled high with fresh vegetables: white and sweet potatoes, cucumbers, corn, beans, lettuce, cabbage, peppers, onions–each representing the hard labor of seasonal farmworkers.
Throughout the feast, wine flowed–wine from vast California vineyards, where Latino laborers had organized, to demand and receive better pay and working conditions.
And the people sat back and ate, and drank, and talked and laughed, and the air was clouded with smoke from their North Carolina tobacco.
When the hour was come, a brown skinned guest, wearing worn overalls, stood among them, took the remaining bread, offered thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you; take and eat, in remembrance of all of us who labor in the fields, that you might eat.’
And likewise, she took the wine and when she had given thanks, gave it to them. And she said to them, “This is the blood of the migrant farmworkers, which is shed for many. Verily, I say unto you, we will not drink of the good wine, nor eat of the feast until the kingdom of God comes to this earth.”
The National Farm Worker Ministry began working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in response to a request for support during their month-long hunger strike in 1998. Since that time, NFWM has been active in CIW’s campaigns to bring giant fast food corporations, supermarkets and the tomato industry to act as responsible corporations throughout their supply chains. Click here for more information.